Tom Coburn’s Wastebook 2013
“$30 Billion of Stupidity, Incompetence and Waste”
While the House and Senate congratulate themselves for saving $23 billion over 10 years in the proposed bipartisan budget deal, Senator Tom Coburn managed to come up with $30 billion in wasteful spending in his “Wastebook 2013” oversight report issued just in time for the Congressional Christmas recess.
“While politicians in Washington spent much of 2013 complaining about sequestration’s impact on domestic programs and our national defense, we still managed to provide benefits to the Fort Hood shooter, study romance novels, help the State Department buy Facebook fans and even help NASA study Congress,” Coburn said.
Coburn said his annual report “speaks volumes” about why confidence in government is at an all-time low.
“Had Congress, in particular, been focused on doing its job of setting priorities and cutting the kind of wasteful spending outlined in this report, we could have avoided both a government shutdown and a flawed budget deal that was designed to avert a shutdown,” Coburn said.
Many of the report’s examples are amusing, but all are troubling. They are perfect examples of Washington’s refusal to put a red line through ridiculous spending items.
Here are examples of wasteful spending highlighted in “Wastebook 2013.”
- Uncle Sam Looking for Romance on the Web – (NEH) $914,000
“The Popular Romance Project has received nearly $1 million from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) since 2010 to “explore the fascinating, often contradictory origins and influences of popular romance as told in novels, films, comics, advice books, songs, and internet fan fiction, taking a global perspective—while looking back across time as far as the ancient Greeks.”
- Mass Destruction of Weapons – (Department of Defense) $7 billion
“As the U.S. war effort in the Middle East winds to a close, the military has destroyed more than 170 million pounds worth of useable vehicles and other military equipment. The military has decided that it will simply destroy more than $7 billion worth of equipment rather than sell it or ship it back home.”
- Millions Spent Building, Promoting an Insurance Plan Few Want and a Website that Doesn’t Work – (Department of Health and Human Services) At least $379 million
“With nearly half-a-billion dollars in government funding put behind promoting a product that relatively few people seem interested in purchasing off a website that doesn’t work, Obamacare is perhaps the biggest marketing flop since Coca-Cola introduced the world to “New Coke” in 1985.”
- Government Study Finds Out Wives Should Calm Down (NIH) $325,525
“If your wife is angry at you and you don’t want her to stay that way, you might avoid passing along the findings of this government study. Wives would find marriage more satisfying if they could calm down faster during arguments with their husbands, according to government-funded research.”
- Fort Hood Shooter Continued to Collect Government Paycheck (Army) ($52,952 in 2013)
“While the families of the survivors and victims were fighting to receive military benefits, the Fort Hood shooter Major Nadal Hasan was cashing his paycheck. Since the shooting, Hasan has received over $278,000 in military benefits because the Military Code of Justice doesn’t allow a soldier to be suspended until they are found guilty.”
- NASA Searches for Signs of Intelligent Life … in Congress – (NASA) $3 million
“One of NASA’s next research missions won’t be exploring an alien planet or distant galaxy. Instead, the space agency is spending $3 million to go to Washington, D.C. and study one of the greatest mysteries in the universe—how Congress works.”
- Hurricane Sandy “Emergency” Funds Spent on TV Ads ($65 million)
“In January 2013, Congress passed a bill to provide $60.4 billion for the areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy. However, instead of rushing aid to the people who need it most, state-level officials in New York and New Jersey spent the money on tourism-related TV advertisements.”
- Federally Funded Solar Panels Covered at Manchester-Boston Airport Because the Glare Blinds Pilots and Controllers (FAA) – $3.5 million
“When officials at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire installed new solar panels, they did not anticipate one quarter of them would not be used 18 months later. In Spring 2012, the panels were placed on top of the airport’s parking garage, and 25 percent have remained there, covered with a tarp, rendering them useless. Problems with the new panels were noticed almost immediately by air traffic controllers who claimed that for 45 minutes each day, glare made it difficult to oversee the airport’s runways.”
- Need Brains! Fighting Zombies with Pluses and Minuses — (NC) $150,000
“A grant from NSF went to a company in North Carolina to develop a math learning game based on the zombie apocalypse.”
- NASA’s Little Green Man (NASA) — $390,000
“Since NASA is no longer conducting space flights, they have plenty of time and money to fund a YouTube TV show and cartoon series called “Green Ninja” in which a man dressed in a Green Ninja costume teaches children about global warming.”
During the course of his career, Walker has worked in Chicago, Washington DC, New York City, and Phoenix. He served as a reporter in Chicago, a press secretary and speechwriter in Washington, and in numerous positions in New York in corporate and financial services communications.
Walker is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.