One of conservatives' favorite examples of wasteful government spending in recent weeks has been a federally funded study of the duck reproductive system. As the Republican Party looks to recover from its 2012 losses, sure, it should appeal to a wider audience by talking more about immigration and talking less about gay marriage. But they should demand more. So far, the most prominent Republican demanding this kind of path forward has been Newt Gingrich, who said that Republicans should promote the very type of technological innovation made possible by the weird science research the party is currently dismissing as silly and wasteful.
President Obama announced a $300 million-a-year program Tuesday to map the human brain, and Michelle Malkin mocks the research as silly. Cuts to really expensive things, like the military and Medicare, are controversial. But cutting funding of animal genital research sounds more inoffensive. House Speaker John Boehner wrote in February, "no one should be talking about raising taxes when the government is still paying people to play videogames, giving folks free cellphones, and buying $47,000 cigarette-smoking machines." New York's Jonathan Chait explained that the smoking machines were created to simulate smoking in mice so the Veterans Administration could study chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. So yeah, smoking machines sound dumb, until you consider the alternative, which is training mice to smoke cigarettes, or start testing on humans. Likewise, the "paying people to play video games" thing is a National Science Foundation grant to study if playing video games can slow old people's loss of brain power.