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While millions around the world watched the Academy Awards on February 28, Brian Lamb of C-SPAN was hosting Thomas Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. The interview confirmed that when it comes to wasting taxpayers’ money, government bureaucrats are endlessly creative.
Lamb recalled the first Golden Fleece award in 1975, a project of the late Senator William Proxmire. He objected to the National Science Foundation squandering $84,000 to find out why people fall in love. In similar style, the Federal Aviation Administration spent $57,000 to study the physical measurements of 432 flight attendants.
More recently, the National Institutes of Health spent nearly $5 million on a “Help a Hipster” project that throws parties at bars to get hipsters to take a stand against tobacco companies. The Department of Agriculture spent $14 million on a catfish inspection office, a duplication of a catfish office operated by the FDA.
The U.S. Air Force contracted with NASCAR for $1.6 million, with expenditures including autograph sessions with a driver at an Air Force recruiting booth. The National Guard spent $14 million on bubble balls, and the Army issued a $50,000 grant to see if elephants would be suitable for sniffing out bombs. The interview also covered the M-I Abrams tanks, which as we noted the military does not want but as Lamb explained, “Congress says you are going to get them.”
In a clip from a January 22 interview, Lamb asked former Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “Has the Department of Defense ever been audited?” When it comes to formal accounting practices, Gates said, “the answer is no.” Gates claimed the Department “knows where all the money has gone” but with so many examples of waste, Schatz remained skeptical. “The Pentagon needs to be audited,” he said. “They need to justify every expenditure.”
It also emerged that the National Endowment for the Humanities spent $30,000 on a computer game about toxic rhetoric online. The National Endowment for the Arts shelled out $40,000 for a video game based on Walden, and the NEH kicked in $100,000 to finish the project. Schatz said the NEA and NEH were on “many lists” for elimination.
“Before they were established in 1963 did we have arts and humanities?” Schatz said. “Of course we did. We just didn’t have the government involved in spending about $180 million on each agency each year.”