Federal spending is getting sillier


We'll miss Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn and his affinity for the absurdities of federal spending. He has now put out his last "Wastebook," as he readies to retire.

"With no one watching over the vast bureaucracy, the problem is not just what Washington isn't doing, but what it is doing." Coburn said. "Only someone with too much of someone else's money and not enough accountability for how it was being spent could come up some of these projects."

Some of the projects being funded by the federal government include paying people to watch grass grow, and training mountain lions to use treadmills.

"The National Institutes of Health spent $387,000 to give Swedish massages to rabbits with a mechanical machine," CNN reported. "Coburn notes that the NIH has a $30 billion annual budget and that the director of the NIH claims an Ebola vaccine would ‘probably' be ready now but for a lack of funding."

The National Science Foundation is spending $171,000 to teach monkeys to play video games, then watching them as they gamble.

"Humans have long been known to have a ‘hot-hand bias' in which they believe hot or cold streaks exist where there is actually none," the Wastebook explained. "Researchers wanted to know if monkeys had the same problem."

Remember sea monkeys?

"Cartoon-style ads for pet sea monkeys promise that you can learn to ‘make them appear to obey your commands, follow a beam of light, do loop-the-loops and even seem to dance when you play' music," Coburn said. "The New York Times says it is ‘sort of true' that Sea Monkeys can be trained because they do follow light. With the financial support of three government agencies, researchers put these claims to the test and essentially choreographed a laser guided synchronized swim team of sea monkeys as part of a study to measure the swirl created by their collective movements."

The government also funded a study on spouses who are "hangry" — which means hungry and angry, at the same time.

"Over the course of 21 consecutive evenings, 107 couples were given a chance to stick up to 51 pins into a voodoo doll representing their spouse," Coburn noted. "The pin-pushing happened in secret, away from the other partner. Participants then recorded the number of pins they poked into the dolls. Those tests revealed what may already be obvious to many couples: a spouse with low blood sugar was an angrier one, and stuck more pins in the doll (on average)."

NASA spent $350 million on a launch pad in Mississippi that will never be used — it's for the Constellation rocket program, which was canceled years ago by President Barack Obama. Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker demanded the project be completed anyway.

The federal government also is spending money to demolish a brand new bridge — because it was made with Canadian steel. It will then be rebuilt, also at federal expense, with American steel.

The real value in Coburn's work is that it just might shame federal budget writers into spending our money more responsibly.

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