A federal researcher spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to discover that schoolchildren prefer to eat food that hasn't been sneezed on, according to a senator's annual list of wasteful spending.
Waste, inefficiencies and regulatory overkill cost taxpayers at least $247 billion over the past year, according to Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.).
The report, Federal Fumbles: 100 Ways the Government Dropped the Ball, highlighted examples of irresponsible spending and inefficient use of tax dollars, Lankford said.
“The American people have signaled a bold new direction for Washington with the election of President-elect Donald Trump,” the senator said in a prepared statement. “Although the federal debt wasn’t a major focus during the presidential campaign, it remains a serious impending crisis that must be addressed.”
The report was produced at minimal cost using in-house staff members, Lankford's communications director, D.J. Jordan, told AMI Newswire. The senator's staff printed up about 20 hard copies of the report, costing about $100, and put together a digital copy for the senator's website, Jordan said.
A few staff members, who are also skilled in working with social media and graphics, assembled the book over the past four to six months, with some staff members spending about 30 minutes a day on the project.
"Not only have we gotten positive reactions from constituents, but we have received positive calls from all over the country," Jordan said.
In addition, Lankford has operated on a staff budget that's well below his allotted amount, saving taxpayers about a half-million dollars over the past two years, he said.
"He's a true believer in this," Jordan said.
Among the highlights in the 152-page report is a U.S. Department of Agriculture rule proposed earlier this year that calls on gas stations and convenience stores to expand their healthy food selections if they want to continue to accept food stamps.
To comply with the new regulation, the businesses should stock foods like tofu, catfish, goat’s milk and almond milk, the USDA said. “The USDA interpretation and proposed regulation will cause small convenience stores to stop accepting food stamps, which will make it even tougher for people with limited transportation and without nearby grocery stores,” the report says.
The National Institutes of Health also drew criticism for funding a multiyear, $2 million study that found children would prefer being wealthy rather than poor and prefer food that has not been sneezed upon.
And the National Science Foundation was called to the carpet for spending $200,000 on a study examining 500-year-old fish bones in Tanzania to determine if there was a connection between social status and food consumed.
“NSF was founded ‘to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare” [emphasis added]’,” the report said. “It is difficult to determine, and the NSF does not explain, how studying the remains of food consumed 500 years ago in a city on the other side of the planet accomplishes that mission.”
Other reported spending outrages include nearly $500,000 spent on a yet-to-open exhibit celebrating the sounds, tastes and smells of medieval life and $35,000 spent on an exhibit in New York exploring how Iranian art evolved between 1960 and 2015.
Then there is a regulation resurrected this year aimed at prohibiting businesses from giving tourists the chance to swim with Flipper and his dolphin friends in places such as Hawaii and Florida.
And the National Endowment for the Arts was cited for providing a $10,000 grant to a theater company to put on a silent production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” – using none of the Bard’s words.
“One reviewer of a previous silent Shakespeare production said it best when he insisted a Shakespeare play without words is like French cooking without butter,” the report said.
Lankford’s report earned praise from Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group.
“Sen. Lankford throws penalty flags on agencies, programs and projects that consistently squander taxpayer funds,” the organization said in a news release. “Most importantly, the report also details how taxpayers can make the recovery and eliminate the waste.”
Trump should fulfill a promise made in a speech earlier this year, the group said. “I will ask that savings be accomplished through common-sense reforms that eliminate government waste and budget gimmicks,” the president-elect said in September.
Rooting out federal government waste, however, has not always been a priority in Washington. A National Performance Review in the 1990s conducted by then-Vice President Al Gore found that waste made up less than 2 percent of all federal spending.
And the question of what “waste” in government means has also been contentious since some critics count any program they disagree with as wasteful spending, making the issue inherently subjective.
His reports on federal waste and inefficiency have had positive effects, Lankford said, during a press conference announcing the report. As a result of his 2015 Federal Fumbles report, the senator was able to help secure a spending provision that phased out the Wind Production Tax Credit, which has been funding the wind energy industry to the tune of $6 billion in federal tax credits annually, Lankford said.