The office of Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on Tuesday released a 177-page overview of questionable projects that have been allotted nearly $30 billion in federal funds.
From $15,000 spent on a project involving the collection of thousands of gallons of human urine (page 76 of the report) to $5 million spent on crystal stemware for the U.S. State Department (page 75 of the report) to the $3 million NASA plans to spend on studying Congress, Coburn’s fourth annual “Wastebook” report is one example of out-of-control government spending after another.
“When it comes to spending your money, those in Washington tend to see no waste, speak no waste and cut no waste,” Coburn said in the report.
Here are six bizarre examples of “egregious federal spending” in Coburn’s “Wastebook 2013”:
6. Uncle Sam Looking for Romance on the Web – $914,000
The Popular Romance Project has received nearly $1 million in federal funds from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) since 2010, “Wastebook 2013” reported.
The purpose of the program is 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.”
The project received approximately $914,000 in fiscal year 2013.
“Taking love and its stories seriously, wherever they may be found, the Popular Romance Project will spark a lively, thoughtful conversation between fans, authors, scholars, and the general public about the writing, production, and consumption of popular romance, including its history and transformation in the digital age,” the project’s site reads.
Some of the recent topics discussed by the project include the popular teen book series “Twilight” and the Carly Rae Jepsen’s bubblegum pop song “Call Me Maybe.”
5. Paid to Do Nothing (Government-Wide) -- Approximately $400 million
It cost approximately $2 billion to provide back pay to federal employees “for services that could not be performed” due to the 16-day partial government shutdown, according to the White House.
“Total compensation costs, including benefits, are about 30 percent larger, in the range of $2.5 billion,” the White House report said.
Coburn’s report adds: “More than 100,000 non-essential federal employees being paid a salary of at least $100,000 were furloughed as non-essential. Each of these was paid $4,000 for the time off of work during the shutdown.”
The “Wastebook” report stresses that Congress is more to blame for this than the civil servants who received pay for “services that could not be performed.”
“(L)ike everyone else, (civil servants) have bills to pay,” the report reads. “But it is truly unfair to charge billions of dollars to pay others not to work to taxpayers working to cover their own bills and the bills of the government. This is especially true when the non-essential federal employee is being compensated more than twice the average U.S. family income of $51,000.”
4. A Whole Bunch of Money for a “Moosical” -- $10,000
The National Endowment of the Arts awarded approximately $10,000 for a Christmas-themed show titled “Mooseltoe: A New Moosical.”
The show will be touring the nation this Christmas.
“Taxpayer dollars pay for ‘Mooseltoe’ to feature voices from celebrities from Broadway, television, and movies, as well as costumes from the costume designer of Broadway’s ‘The Lion King,’” the report says.
“In addition to its original songs, parents will appreciate the 16 characters in ‘Mooseltoe’ that are entertaining their children on the taxpayers’ dime, including three snobby penguins, a mobster snowman, and a fat walrus,” it adds.
3. A Mega-Blimp That Doesn’t Work -- $297 Million
The U.S. Army spent nearly four years and $300 million developing a mega-blimp that it eventually scraped. The blimp was designed to be the size of a football field and would be used to perform surveillance duties in Afghanistan.
But in 2013, the Army decided it had enough of the blimp .
“(T)he Army closed the blimp’s eye forever when it brought the project to a halt after spending nearly $300 million,” Coburn’s report reads. “The Army sold the airship back to the contractor that was building it for just $301,000.”
2. NASA Pays to Study How Congress Works -- $3 Million
NASA plans to spend nearly $3 million to study how Congress works.
The agency plans to hold seminars that will provide participants with “a comprehensive look at how Congress is organized, the key players and their roles, how the legislative process really works, and how Congress directly affects the daily operations of every department and agency in the Executive Branch."
Seminars hosted by NASA and Georgetown University will also provide participants with “briefings from experts in the field,” opportunities “to attend committee hearings, and observe floor action.”
Participants will be given a “hands-on understanding of the congressional process and procedures as well as the culture that is the United States Congress,” NASA said.
The program is expected to cost NASA around $3 million starting December 2012 and running trough December 2017.
1. Nearly $300,000 for a Video Game
The National Endowment of the Humanities has awarded a professor at Hope College nearly $300,000 for a multi-player game that connects Civil War re-enactors online.
The game, titled “Valley Sim,” allows students to “take on the identity of one of 25 real-life citizens of two communities that were on opposite sides of the Civil War.”
The game is based almost entirely on an Internet chat system.
“The NEH grant will be used to expand the basic framework of the game into a tool that can be applied to other areas of the humanities,” the Coburn report adds. “Perhaps we’ll see Battlefield or Call of Duty replacing WWII lectures? Or maybe the money can prop up something less wasteful in the realm of higher education. As cool as it might be to introduce games into the classroom, it might be a better idea to convince students to put the controller down and get back to the basics instead."
Keep in mind the above are just six examples of the dozens and dozens of bizarre projects unearthed by Sen. Coburn’s office. There are many, many more contained in the report. Some are simply puzzling (money for alcohol for a dry county) and some are infuriating ($52,000 in continued pay for Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan).
Read the full report here:
Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter
Featured image via Wastebook 2013