Senator Tom Coburn has just put out a report, called Wastebook 2010, that documents 100 obscene examples of federal spending, including earmarks and grants. I’ve gone through the report to bring you what I consider the 20 most ridiculous in the list. These are not necessarily the most expensive, but where chosen because they are so absurdly stupid. It was difficult to trim it down to just 20, as they are all deserving of being in the list. But I think you’ll find these to be particularly angering.
1. Museum Where Neon Signs Go to Die – $1.8 Million
Did you ever wonder where the flashy and colorful signs in Las Vegas go when they die? The city of Las Vegas has received a $5.2 million federal grant to build the Neon Boneyard Park and Museum, including $1.8 million in 2010.
2. “Free” Grateful Dead Archive – $615,000
Grateful Dead chose a public institution to archive the band‘s memorabilia ―because the whole idea of it being public and free was important to them,‖ yet taxpayers are paying $615,000 to make the band‘s archives ― free and ―public. Where? In Santa Cruz, California, of course.
3. Poems in Zoos – $997,766
Our nation currently faces many challenges; a shortage of poetry in our nation‘s zoos, however, is rarely cited as one of them. A federal grant program has directed a million dollars from the public coffers to infuse zoos around the United States with snippets of poetry.
4. “Critter Crossing” – $150,000
The Monkton, Vermont Conservation Commission received $150,000 in federal grant money to build a critter crossing, to save the lives of thousands of migrating salamanders and other amphibians that would otherwise be slaughtered by vehicle traffic on a major roadway.
5. Internet Dating Study – $239,100
The National Science Foundation directed nearly a quarter million dollars to a Stanford University professor‘s study of how Americans use the Internet to find love.
6. Census Super Bowl Commercial Too Ironic to be Understood – $2.5 Million
U.S. taxpayers watched their money vanish quicker at the Super Bowl than those who bet on Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts to win the game. The U.S. Census Bureau lost a $2.5 million bet when its ―Snapshot of Americ ad tanked when it ran during a commercial break in the third quarter. Media critics agreed the multi-million dollar advertisement ranked as one of the worst during the Super Bowl.
7. Studying Male Prostitutes in Vietnam – $442,340
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) spent nearly $442,340 million to study the number of male 124 prostitutes in Vietnam and their social setting.
8. Zoo Receives Federal Funding to Develop Online Video Game, “Wolfquest‟ – $609,160
The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded over $600,000 to the Minnesota Zoo to create a wolf avata video game called WolfQuest
9. Teaching South African Men How to Wash Their Genitalia – $823,200
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) secured a grant for $800,000 in stimulus funds to study the effects of a genital-washing program in Orange Farm, South Africa. Investigators will attempt to teach uncircumcised African men how to wash their genitals after having sex and hope doing so will prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
10. Gold-Plated Potties in the Woods – $1.49 Million
The Denali National Park in Alaska recently built new restrooms at the Teklanika campground to replace chemical toilets with a sweet smelling toilet facility at a cost of nearly $1.5 million to taxpayers. The park will be spending more than $41,000 to replace each of the 36 toilets.
11. A Recession-Inspired Video Game – $137,530
If you have ever wondered what it would be like to fire someone, a new video game is available to help you get in on the fun! One Dartmouth professor received a federal grant to create a recession-inspired video game called Layoff, a puzzle-style game in which players fire as many people as they can as quickly as possible.
12. NSF Studies Political Talk Shows on Fox News and MSNBC – $66,638
Bill O‘Reilly and Rachel Maddow are not to blame for polarizing American politics, at least according to one researcher. The National Science Foundation (NSF) provided a $66,638 grant to Temple University political scientist Kevin Arceneaux to study the influence of political programming in mass media. He set out to test the claim that cable television shows allow the public to insulate themselves from opposing viewpoints—polarizing the electorate.
13. Alcohol, College Students, Foreign Countries, and Your Money – $41,380
Breaking news! College students studying abroad tend to drink more alcoholic beverages. Thanks to research funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, taxpayers now know study abroad students double the amount they drink while away.
14. Pedestrian Bridge Built Steps from Another Pedestrian Bridge – $260,000
The Puget Sound Regional Council (Washington state) spent $260,000 building a pedestrian bridge across the North Creek, just 20 paces from an existing sidewalk crossing the river. Part of a larger $1.1297 million stimulus grant to improve Bothell Trail, this project has been described by locals as embarrassing, not needed, and not the best place.
15. Banjo Player Honored in Museum – $1.5 Million
Taxpayers may not quite get the twang for their buck from this project. The North Carolina county hopes a $1.5 million federal grant for a museum honoring a local bluegrass singer will provide an economic boost.
16. Studying Wild Blue Monkey‟s Business – $168,766
The National Science Foundation awarded a $168,766 federal grant to Columbia University researchers to study the sexual behavior of wild blue monkeys by analyzing monkey feces in Africa.
17. NIH Promotes Awareness for Non-Existent Vaccine – $55,000
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) spent $55,000 to promote HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, even though no vaccine exists.
18. Renovating Pizzeria with New Vertical Garden Entry Way – $60,000
Taxpayers who visit Tony‘s Trattoria in Waterloo, Iowa may literally get to taste the results of a federal grant. The pizzeria received $60,000 in federal funding to improve the property‘s façade and give it a more inviting feel. Specifically, customers using the back entrance will now be greeted by a vertical garden, which will ―provide the restaurant herbs such as basil, cilantro and rosemary.
19. Storm Surge Signs Frighten Local Residents – $42,544
Some Texas residents are unhappy and with over $42,544433 in federal funds being allocated towards posting 400 frightening signs showing how high the storm surge would be in a major hurricane. The signs are intended to show how deep the water would be if there were a 25-foot storm surge.
20. City Gets Funding for “Slightly Different” Bike Signage – $900,000
Why have one bike sign when you can have two? Portland, Oregon spent $900,000 in federal stimulus funds on a new bike signage project even though the city already has similar bike signs, which it plans to leave up. The new signs—which include arrows, distance, and travel times to key destinations— have a slightly different design than existing ones.