Retiring senator frames alleged wasteful spending against the backdrop of increasing “chaos, confusion and uncertainty.”
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., on Wednesday released his final “Wastebook” before he retires, featuring $25 billion in alleged federal misspending on 100 items ranging from studies of gambling by monkeys to the Coast Guard’s reported free patrols to keep party crashers away from posh private events on yachts and exclusive beaches.
“The world increasingly appears to be in disarray with the chaos, confusion and uncertainty growing ever closer,” wrote Coburn, ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, in the introduction to the fifth annual report on potential waste. “All the while, the leadership in our nation’s capital is ever more distant, disconnected and absent.”
The director of the National Institutes for Health “claims a vaccine for Ebola ‘probably’ would have been developed by now if not for the stagnant funding for the agency,” Coburn added, but NIH with its $30 billion budget “did come up with the money to pay to give Swedish massages for rabbits.”
The report – which has 1,100 footnotes – cited the State Department for ordering a “life-size inflatable foosball game.” Coburn said the order was canceled the day after his office inquired about it.
“NASA no longer has the ability to send astronauts into space,” the report noted. But “the agency now pays Russia $70 million per passenger for a round-trip fare to the international space station where the ‘design and creation of better golf clubs’ is among the studies being conducted.”
The Justice Department’s Criminal Division, according to the Wastebook, “forked over” $544,338 for an “enhanced company profile” on the job-networking site LinkedIn.com, so that it can “increase brand awareness beyond job advertisements” and determine which job applicants are qualified.
The State and Homeland Security departments allegedly spent more than $55,000 for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s European book tour this year, even though she was “not traveling on official government business.”
And $157,000 in mostly federal taxpayer money was used in Austin, Texas, for an ad campaign to prop up public support to approve floating a billion dollar bond to help pay for an urban rail line, an effort Coburn likened to “lobbying” to encourage taxpayers to pay more in taxes.
Some items on Coburn’s list could be viewed more as policy disputes, such as the continually delayed effort to build a memorial to President Eisenhower near the National Mall in Washington and the quality of the education and training being provided by the Job Corps.
“Despite all of this obvious waste,” Coburn wrote, “Washington politicians celebrated ending the fiscal year with a deficit under half-a-trillion dollars for the first time since 2008, as if adding $486 billion to a national debt quickly approaching $18 trillion is an actual accomplishment deserving praise.”
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