Update – 10:30 a.m. Dec. 21 – MSNBC host Rachel Maddow yesterday defended Deadhead-related spending. “Sen. Coburn has picked a classic culture war target,” she wrote on her blog. “The Grateful Dead and their buckets of hallucinogens, etc., can be counted on to divide opinion, should anyone actually notice Mr. Coburn’s Wastebook.”


The Grateful Dead have been named among the top “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” by Rolling Stone magazine. Now, they rank among the 100 worst examples of wasteful government spending in 2010.

A report prepared by Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) office reveals taxpayers shelled out $615,000 so the University of California at Santa Cruz could digitize Grateful Dead photographs, tickets, backstage passes, fliers, shirts and other memorabilia.

“This is one of the first efforts to preserve and share cultural and historical artifacts of the baby boom generation, a group that includes 76 million Americans,” representatives of the Institute of Museum and Library Services explained.

So let the Baby Boomers pay for it out of their own pockets.

When taxpayers aren’t shelling out money for music memorabilia, they’re busy paying for the other projects listed in Coburn’s report. Here are a few named in the report:

  • They supply $175 million a year so the Department of Veterans Affairs can maintain buildings it doesn’t use, including a pink, octagonal monkey house in Dayton, Ohio.
  • They pinch pennies so a federal grant program can distribute $1 million to zoos to post bits of poetry to plaques on zoo premises.
  • They cushion the federal coffers so the Monkton, VT, Conservation Commission can build a “critter crossing” for $150,000.
  • They file honest tax returns so the Internal Revenue Service can deliver $112 million in undeserved tax refunds to prisoners who filed fraudulent returns.
  • They fork over their hard-earned dollars so Denali National Park in Alaska can afford nearly $1.5 million worth of new toilets.

As Coburn puts it, examples like these are too numerous to count.

“Worse yet,” he writes, “they are costing us billions even as we borrow huge sums just to keep the government operating at a basic level.”

The Wastebook reveals the madness — but it can’t stop it. Fortunately, Coburn says, the examples it cites could easily be eliminated.

“Well-intentioned people across the political spectrum will argue about the best way to get us back on track,” he said. “But we can all agree that cutting wasteful and low-priority spending from the budget is not only sensible, but essential.”