Flake Releases “Wastebook: The Farce Awakens”

Carrying on the tradition of retired Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) this week released the 2015 edition of the Wastebook: The Farce Awakens, where he cites 100 examples of wasteful federal spending totaling more than $100 billion. Sen. Flake's Wastebook is the latest in a series of lawmakers attempting to carry on Sen. Coburn's legacy as well as a sequel to his June 2015 publication Jurassic Pork.

The report explains:

Despite the public ballyhooing over budget austerity, the government didn’t come up short on outlandish ways to waste money in 2015.

Like the monkeys on the treadmill, Washington politicians also ran in place trading familiar arguments in the seemingly never ending match of budget brinksmanship. But the stare down over whether or not to increase spending didn’t last long.

Instead of one side blinking, both sides winked and the budget caps agreed to just a few years ago were lifted. Proving once again, no matter how mired in gridlock Washington may appear, there is always one area of agreement —spending more.

Some of the things Sen. Flake mentions include:

  • “Help A Hipster” quit smoking - $5 million: Over the past five years the “Help a Hipster” movement has received almost $5 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to organize parties “against tobacco corporations.” When the parties fail to get people to quit smoking, participants can get up to a $100 through programs like “Quit smoking, get cash.”
  • Party Bus - $3 million: The Department of Homeland Security allocated $3 million for its Intercity Bus Security Grant Program for “owners and operators of fixed route intercity and charter buses,” which includes luxury buses that people rent out for celerbrations, to improve security by covering operating costs, public awareness campaigns, and renovations to buses and bus terminals. 
  • Promoting Tourism to Lebanon - $2.1 million: Despite the U.S. State Department issuing a travel warning against visiting Lebanon in May after U.S. citizens had been kidnapped and killed in bombings, the United States Agency for International Development has nevertheless spent $2.1 million promoting tourism to the country.
  • Koozie Keeps Your Beer Cold - $1.3 million: Two researchers and a pair of students from the University of Washington spent nearly $1.3 million in National Science Foundation (NSF) grant money to study how a koozie keeps a can of beer cold. Their work was published in Physics Today, in an article entitled “Condensation, atmospheric motion, and cold beer.”
  • Monkeys on a Treadmill - $1 million: The Southwest National Primate Research Center used NIH funding to train monkeys how to run inside a hamster ball on a treadmill. The National Institute on Aging is also spending more than $600,000 to run another monkey-treadmill study.
  • Fight Club for Shrimp - $707,000: Researchers at Duke University spent more than $700,000 in money from the NSF and the Smithsonian’s Tropical Research Institute to get 68 different Panamanian mantis shrimp to fight over an artificial burrow.

We applaud Sen. Flake for highlighting these examples; however, they are at best a small part of the solution to fix the debt. Sen. Flake deserves recognition for working to find reasonable spending cuts, but we can't solve our debt situation by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse. These are certainly areas where we can help trim excess spending, but entitlement and tax reform are much more important for long-term fiscal responsibility.

You can read the entire Wastebook, and find last year's version as well as versions by Senator Lankford (R-OK), Senator McCain (R-AZ), and Representative Russell (R-OK).