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Studies of Monkey Drool, Frat Boys’ Party Habits Make Latest Senate 'Wastebook'

Senator accuses science agencies of spending taxpayers' money to research the obvious.

An Arizona Republican senator on Tuesday released his second annual “Wastebook” mocking what he views as ill-conceived federal spending. The report did not include any agency rebuttals.

Sen. Jeff Flake's Wastebook: PORKémon Go highlighted “50 examples of outrageous and wasteful federal spending amounting to more than $5 billion.” Science agencies again figured heavily into the list.  

At a time of record debt, and when the government struggled to find funds to combat the Zika virus, Flake said, “the nation’s most prestigious science agencies were squandering resources already available by investigating matters most would consider obvious or even absurd.”

The National Institutes of Health, for example, “spent nearly $1 million to study the evolution of monkey drool and another $230,000 to determine if the color red makes female monkeys feel more romantic,” the report said.

The National Science Foundation funded scientists “playing with dolls to prove what every child already knows—girls are more likely to play with Barbie dolls than boys.”

NIH gave out $5 million in grants to study the habits of college students and find that “fraternity brothers drink, smoke and generally party more than other students,” and $3.5 million to learn that people are afraid of the dentist because “fear of pain has been shown to be a critical component.”

The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration came under fire for a $1.7 million grant to help build a National Comedy Center in upstate New York featuring holograms, down the street from a museum devoted to comedian Lucille Ball.

Flake’s report, a successor to the lists prepared for years by now retired-Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla, also lambasted the Agriculture Department’s “nutty” program that allows farmers in 12 states to repay their federal loans in peanuts rather than cash, the nuts being used for nutrition programs. Flake plans to introduce a bill to end the practice.