For each of the past three years, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has published his annual Wastebook, and each year the press has had a field day digging into the 200-page report to expose the most outrageous, wasteful, and annoying projects Congress is funding with taxpayer monies. In 2010, for instance, Coburn’s report noted that $200,000 went to research that studied why political candidates “make vague statements,” while his 2011 report exposed squandering of $700,000 to study cow burps, robot dragons, and “bridges to nowhere.”
• Free cellphone service to 16.5 million Americans;
• $325,000 to create a “Robosquirrel” to test the interaction between a fake squirrel and a real snake;
• Pennies that cost two cents each to make; and
• Waste in the food stamp program, including an exotic dancer who collected $1,000 a month in food stamps while earning $85,000 a year as a stripper (while writing off on her taxes “cosmetic enhancements” somehow related to her profession)
Stephen Dinan, in the Washington Times, couldn’t resist citing other “highlights” from Coburn’s report:
• $1.5 million for a study on how to build a better computer gaming stick
• $100,000 to send a comedy troupe on a tour of India, and
• Nearly $1 million to see if a male fruit fly would be more attracted to an older female fruit fly than a younger one, or vice versa.
Coburn appears to be the right man for the job, as he seems to have steered clear of supporting any obvious “highlights” of his own. He is known in the Senate as “Dr. No” for his tendency to vote against these measures, and has also used “holds” to prevent various other pernicious spending bills from ever coming to the Senate floor for a vote.
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Photo of Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.): AP Images