As Congress enters debate on a new budget, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., is making sure wasteful spending remains at the forefront with a report citing examples ranging from a study of how college students party to research on whether dinosaurs could sing.
Flake told The Daily Signal that he released the report, “Wastebook: PORKémon Go,” for two reasons.
“One, to inform the debate that is being had right now about whether we should bring earmarking back,” Flake said. “And two, just the issue of priorities. We have to make choices when we’re borrowing a lot of money.”
The report, which Flake discussed during an appearance Tuesday at The Heritage Foundation, is the second volume in the Arizona Republican’s “Wastebook” series.
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Flake has a habit of exposing government waste. In 2015, he released a detailed report entitled “Wastebook: The Farce Awakens” and has put out similar reports since 2003, when he was in the House.
Here are seven of the most outrageous examples detailed in the new “Wastebook” report:
1. “Spaceport to Nowhere.” The Missile Defense Agency continues to fund a rocket launch site in Alaska that could cost the organization up to $80.4 million. The facility is 20 years old, “rarely used,” and was established with an $18 million earmark. “The millions spent to date on this launch complex have not made America safer from potential missile attacks from foreign adversaries,” the report states. “To the contrary, it has siphoned away tens of millions of dollars that could have been better spent on more promising initiatives.”
2. Fishes on a Treadmill. How long can a mudskipper use a treadmill? The University of California-San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography is using grant money from the National Science Foundation to answer just that. The study found that mudskippers “can exercise longer and recover quicker under higher oxygen concentrations.” The grant also is slated to be used “to purchase what one of the researchers jokingly refers to as ‘all the toys’ as well as travel costs for junkets to conferences.”
3. Holograms at a Comedy Museum. The National Comedy Center, a nonprofit in New York, received a $1.7 million grant from the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to create a comedy museum. The museum will feature holograms of dead comedians. A New York state lawmaker has promised to bring an additional $3 million in federal funding. “I’m not kidding you,” Flake said at Heritage. “It’s a comedy club that, unfortunately, gets your tax dollars.”
4. Partying College Students. Part of a $5 million grant from a section of the National Institutes of Health paid for a researcher at Brown University to study the partying habits of college students. Some findings: “Greek members engaged in more risky health behaviors … than non-Greek members,” and college students tend to increase their intake of alcohol on game days. “According to the researchers,” Flake said, “all the games had the same goal—causing the participants to become intoxicated. I think that falls into the obvious category.”
5. Do Boys or Girls Play More With Dolls? A study executed by Vanderbilt University with money from the National Eye Institute and National Science Foundation examined “whether boys or girls spend more time playing with Barbie dolls.” The report surveyed about 300 men and women and cost over $300,000. The study also found, in the words of Flake’s report, that “women were much better at identifying the correct Barbies while the men were more likely to recognize the Transformers.”
6. Singing Dinosaurs. A study conducted with partial funding from $450,000 in grants from the National Science Foundation examined whether dinosaurs were able to sing. The two-year study examined, in part, whether dinosaurs ever possessed a syrinx. The lead author said the study was “another important step to figuring out what dinosaurs sounded like.”
7. Binge-Watching Computers. Can computers learn human behavior by binge-watching TV shows such as “The Office” and “Desperate Housewives?” The study was funded in part by the Department of Defense’s Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation, which helped researchers study how TV shows “train computers to understand and predict human behavior.” Flake said he sees this research as nonsensical. “Spending nearly a half a billion dollars to … turn computers into couch potatoes doesn’t compute for me,” he said.