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From the 'Wastebook': robotic squirrels, talking urinals, and Congress

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2. Are there serious policy issues in there alongside the Alabama Watermelon Queen?

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?

3. Can you fix the federal budget deficit by killing everything in the Wastebook? Not even close.

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