Coburn Releases the 2012 "Wastebook"

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) yesterday released his "Wastebook" for 2012, a laundry list of government waste and inefficiency. Coburn finds 100 examples of government spending clearly not serving its designed purpose.  

Wastebook's examples include:

  • Professional sports leagues mischaracterized as non-profits – $91 million
  • Improper food stamp payments including payments going to 2000 deceased individuals and food stamps being used for non-nutritious food like Starbucks coffee – $4.5 billion
  • Moroccan pottery classes as part of USAID – $27 million
  • NASA food research for an unplanned Mars mission – $947,000
  • Payments from USDA to promote caviar – $300,000
  • Producing the penny at a cost of twice its value – $70 million
  • Free cellphones from the FCC – $1.5 billion
  • A "prom video game" funded by the National Science Foundation – $516,000
  • College tax credits for those not attending college – $3.2 billion
  • State Department sends comedy tour to India – $100,000
  • Study that finds that fruit flies are less attracted to older flies compared to younger flies – $939,771
  • A library vending machine for books – $35,000
  • A study investigating whether World of Warcraft would improve cognitive abilities of seniors – $1.2 million

We noticed that not only did Coburn list examples of spending waste, he also listed tax expenditures that were being abused – like paper companies claiming a wood byproduct as an "alternative fuel." At the end of the day, lawmakers may decide that some tax expenditures may be worth keeping, but we need to ensure we pay for the provisions we believe are important and make sure they are being used as intended. Eliminating wasteful programs in the spending and tax sides of the ledger is a great opportunity to take up fundamental tax reform to make our tax code much more efficient and pro-growth.

Eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse will not solve our debt problem. The extent of our fiscal challenges is too great to avoid making the difficult decisions on tax reform and entitlement reforms. Even so, we should take all opportunities to root out waste in government.

The full report can be found here.