Economy & Budget

Senate Oversight Report Highlights $18 Billion in Wasteful Federal Programs

An oversight report, called “Wastebook 2012” and released by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, (R-Okla.), highlights 100 federal projects that total more than $18 billion in expenditures he described as “unnecessary, duplicative and low-priority.”

Among the most farcical 2012 federal expenditures are $505,000 to promote specialty shampoo and beauty products for cats and dogs, $25,000 to promote the consumption of Alabama’s watermelons through appearances of the Alabama Watermelon Queen, and $350,000 to study how golfers might benefit by envisioning that a hole is larger than its actual size. Sen. Coburn has been one of the most ardent critics of federal boondoggles, including the notorious “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska that the Senate initially approved for construction before public attention ultimately led to the project’s elimination.

“Instead of spending federal dollars to help golfers imagine a smaller hole, we should be trying to shrink the hole in our budget,” Sen. Coburn said.

With the federal government $16 trillion in debt, Sen. Coburn said the report exposes the “folly of across-the-board-cuts or sequestration” rather than singling out the most frivolous projects to slash.

“The problem in Washington is politicians are very specific about what we should fund but not specific about what we should cut,” Sen. Coburn said. “As a result, we are chasing robotic squirrels and countless other low-priority projects over a fiscal cliff,” said Dr. Coburn.

The robotic squirrel that Sen. Coburn referred to his named “RoboSquirrel” and is part of a $325,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

“There is no question we can find hundreds of billion dollars of waste in our budget,” Sen. Coburn said. “Yet, by not going through the budget line by line and setting priorities, we are protecting ridiculous programs like caviar promotion and climate change musicals, while cutting vital programs. Until Congress has the guts to cut specific programs, we will never get our debt under control. As these examples illustrate, it is not nearly as hard to make those choices as many politicians claim.”

Examples of wasteful spending, and the amount of potential savings, cited by Sen. Coburn and his staff include:

• Tax loopholes estimated at $91 million for the National Football League (NFL), National Hockey League (NHL) and Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) — professional sports leagues that generate billions of dollars annually in profits and feature top administrators earning millions of dollars, while claiming to be nonprofit organizations;

• “Corporate welfare” of roughly $1.3 million to help the world’s largest snack food producer, PepsiCo Inc., build an aquifer-direct water supply system in Genesee County, New York, to team up with German company Theo Muller Group to sell premium yogurt products in the United States;

• Moroccan pottery classes that are part of a $27 million grant from U.S. Agency for International Development;

• “Prom Week,” a video game developed for $516,000 that allows taxpayers to relive prom night;

• A scarcely used airport in Sen. Coburn’s home state of Oklahoma that received $450,000 in taxpayer dollars only for the funds to be transferred elsewhere in the state;

• Expenditures totaling $300,000 to promote U.S. caviar consumption and production; and

• The 2012 Alabama Watermelon Queen funding of $25,000 that came, in part, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to let her appear at various events and locations.

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