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Coburn's biggest hits-on Uncle Sam's wallet
WHILE AMERICANS are seeking help from food banks in near-record numbers, some of their representatives on Capitol Hill are gorging on pork. Sen. Tom Coburn R-Okla., offers the details.
Mr. Coburn, formerly a leader of a bipartisan group trying to solve the nation's fiscal problems, publishes an annual report on some of the more egregious examples of wasteful federal spending. In good years, his examples are worth a chuckle. In bad, narrowed eyes and clenched jaws are in order.
For example, why did taxpayers foot the $1.5 million bill for the University of Utah to develop a better gaming joystick? Or the $325,000 ticket to build a robotic squirrel to see if it could scare snakes? (It didn't: One rattlesnake bit the robot's head off.)
Then there was the $27 million grant to help Moroccans learn to make and sell their pottery overseas. And $560,000 on a video game that simulates the experience of going to a prom. Women everywhere will be happy to know they helped the National Institutes of Health spend $939,771 to find out if male fruit flies prefer younger female fruit flies over older numbers.
Mr. Coburn, whose list of 100 spending abuses totals $18.9 billion, says his cohorts on the Hill are "compulsive spenders" who have "charged more than $1 trillion to our national credit card" for the fourth year in a row, "pushing us to a $16 trillion debt." His colleagues spend like there's no end to Uncle Sam's wallet--$2 million in aid to specialty cupcake shops?--while 22 million Americans are un- or underemployed. "Washington priorities are backward," notes Mr. Coburn. "Important programs go bankrupt while outlandish projects continue to be funded."
The diagnosis of the M.D.-senator is borne out by the facts; now, what's the cure? A fiscal spendectomy?