Senator Releases ‘Wastebook’ On Government Programs

by | December 17, 2013 9:18 pm

NewLetters[1]Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has released his annual “Wastebook”[2], detailing government spending he felt went to “questionable and lower-priority” programs.

According to Coburn, the federal government wasted $28 billion on these sorts of programs in 2013, on a wide variety of items. Coburn has been compiling the report for the past five years, in an attempt to promote his small government views.

What are some of the crazier things[3] included in his “Wastebook”?

Popular Romance Project

Since 2010, this project has received $914,000 from National Endowment for the Humanities. It has a web site which provides research into the origins of romance and how it is depicted in novels, fan fiction and advice books. Coburn singled out the site’s research on the song “Call Me Maybe[4]” and the main characters from young adult series “Twilight” for scorn.

3-D Printed Pizza

NASA granted Arjun Contractor $124,955 to work on creating a 3-D printer capable of making pizza, as part of research into space-exploration mission supplies. Call us crazy, but there are probably more important types of food to print than pizza on long space missions.

NASA’s “Green Ninja”

The space agency got dinged on multiple accounts by Coburn. Also singled out for ridicule by the senator was a $390,000 project to create a character to educate kids about global warming. The Green Ninja[5] has a web site with videos and photos promoting green living, and even sponsored a film festival. Coburn argued that NASA should be spending less time and money worrying about the environment and more on manned space missions.

Brothel Tax Exemptions

Thanks to the U.S. tax code, brothels in Nevada (where prostitution is legal) received $17.5 million in exemptions on items ranging from breast implants to “free passes” that the IRS deemed were part of promotional costs, and thus eligible for tax write-offs.


One of the most expensive, and possibly the weirdest, items in Coburn’s “Wastebook” is the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle, or “Mega-Blimp”. Over three years, nearly $300 million was spent to get this aerial surveillance vehicle[6] off the ground. The military hoped to use the vehicle in Afghanistan, but after making just one 90 minute flight over New Jersey, the plug was pulled on the project. The vehicle was sold back to the original contractor, Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC[7]) for only $301,000, making back just .1% of what it spent.

Coburn’s complete “Wastebook” can be found here[8].

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

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