And that’s in addition to the report’s wry commentary on ending penny production (saving $70 million per year to produce $35 million worth of pennies), a $350,000 National Science Foundation grant about golfers needing to “envision a bigger hole” to improve their putting, and $445,000 on a play about biodiversity and climate change that reviews deemed “boring” and “needed improvement.”
Foremost of Coburn’s tough questions is this: Is Washington keeping its priorities in order?
With real and imminent needs in the American economy, every dollar spent wastefully is one that could have gone to a higher purpose.
“How many of our friends, families and neighbors could be fed with the nearly $1 million the government spent taste testing foods to be served on the planet Mars? How many nutritious school lunches could have been served with the $2 million in financial assistance provided to cupcake specialty shops?” the Wastebook asks.
This has direct policy implications within government programs, as the Wastebook’s criticism of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the former food stamp program, makes clear. Because SNAP does not require the purchase of healthy food – and regulations in some states allow for the purchase of alcohol or fast food – Coburn argues that well-meaning federal dollars aimed at helping poor families are being used in less-than-helpful ways.
If you’re permitting SNAP participants to buy Starbucks lattes or alcohol with their food assistance, the question goes, are you really solving the problem of hunger?
The federal government added more than $1 trillion to the national debt in the 2012 fiscal year ending Sept. 30. All 100 findings in Coburn’s report total just over $18 billion.