Senator Flake Releases "Wastebook: PORKémon Go" to Catch Federal Waste

Hoping to “catch egregious spending lurking in federal budgets,” Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) released Wastebook: PORKémon Go yesterday, highlighting 50 different federal programs that cost taxpayers over $5 billion. This Wastebook is another installment in a series on tackling wasteful government spending.

Explaining what he hopes this report will accomplish, Flake notes:

Within mere days, the national debt will top $20 trillion, the largest amount ever owed by any nation in history, and the federal government’s authority to borrow expires in March. But rather than making a long overdue resolution to be fiscally responsible, the promises from Washington are to spend even more…We can do more without spending more by simply making better sense out of how we spend every cent.  

Flake’s report coincides with his introduction of two bills in the Senate – the “Stop Paying U.S. in Peanuts Act,” which ends a federal program that accepts peanuts as payment for loans, and another bill that will enact a permanent prohibition on earmarks.

Below are five of the programs Flake highlights:

  • The “Spaceport to Nowhere” ($80.4 million) – The Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska (PSCA) was founded in 1996 with an $18 million earmark. It has been seldom used since its founding and is now in disrepair as a result of a 2014 failed launch. Last year, the Missile Defense Agency awarded a “sole source” contract for up to $80.4 million to keep the base open.
  • The “Hologram Comedy Club” ($1.7 million) – The Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration awarded a $1.7 million contract to the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, New York, to resurrect dead comedians, such as Lucille Ball and Richard Pryor, through holographs.
  • The “Fish on a Treadmill” ($1.5 million) – Researchers at the University of California-San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography received a grant to study how well mudskippers, a fish that can survive long amounts of time out of water and can walk with its front flippers, could walk on a treadmill.
  • The Computers That Binge-Watch “Desperate Housewives” ($460,000) –  The Department of Defense’s Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation funded a study in which computers binge-watched 600 hours of “Desperate Housewives,” “The Office,” and other TV shows and online videos in order to train computers to predict human behavior.
  • The “Angry Birds” in Ohio ($118,000) – The Department of Agriculture’s National Wildlife Research Center in Ohio recently funded a study assessing the speed a car or truck needs to be traveling to hit a bird before it can fly to safety.

Flake joins his colleagues Senator James Lankford (R-OK), Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and Representative Steve Russell (R-OK) in paying homage to the former Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) waste reports.

We support Flake’s efforts to shine a light on government waste, and we have recommended as part of our Co-Chairs Memo to President Trump that the new administration task agencies to identify areas of waste, fraud, and abuse. However, we cannot fix the debt by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse alone.

Identifying waste is a good beginning, but a solution to our long-term debt will ultimately require a carefully-considered combination of entitlement reform and tax reform.