Our allegedly cash-strapped federal government has decided to spend more than $3 million tax dollars to get monkeys drunk in order to study the effect of alcohol on body tissue. The idea is to force the monkeys to drink too much and then study their tissue for damage. According to firsthand reports, the monkeys think this is a great idea. The rest of us aren’t so sure.
You might think I’m joking about the drunk monkeys, but I’m not. Rather, it’s yet another weird example of how our elected officials and federal bureaucrats dream up ways to spend millions of our tax dollars. This cockamamie story reminded me of the dire reports about how the so-called budget “sequester” was going to paralyze the federal government. It did close down a few public monuments and parks but for most of the Feds, it was business as usual.
According to the Washington Times, the drunk monkey study is being funded by the National Institutes of Health and carried out by the Oregon Health & Science University. It boggles the mind to imagine how this institution of higher learning conducts keg parties for monkeys, but I guess they figured out how to conduct the study after the NIH waved $3 million under their scientific noses. I would have been willing to give it a try for half that amount of money.
But it isn’t just drunk monkeys. In his most recent annual “Wastebook,” released last December, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., revealed that NASA is spending on a “Pillownauts” study to learn the effects of lying in bed all day. And while the Obama administration slashes the Defense Department budget, the National Guard is spending $10 million on a “Soldier of Steel” recruiting campaign linked to the latest Superman movie, the Army continues to pay the Ft. Hood shooter, Maj. Nidal Hassan, his full salary.
Coburn also mentioned $1.9 million for “lifestyle” coaching for Senate staffers, a $385,000 “duck penis study;” no, I’m not making this stuff up. And a $325,525 NIH study showing “marriages are happier when wives calm down quickly during arguments.”
Duh! Finally, I’ll mention multi-million-dollar presidential vacations.
While acknowledging Sen. Coburn’s Wastebook, the respected Brookings Institution urged Coburn and other governmental watchdogs to pay more attention to “big ticket” budget items like the $7 billion the Pentagon is spending to destroy “approximately 20 percent of the total war material the U.S. military has in Afghanistan” or the $3.6 billion we’re paying to federal government employees who are tax cheats. The problem with this latter issue is the Internal Revenue Service would have to pursue the tax cheats, which is difficult when the agency’s top officials are so busy trying to cover up the political scandal caused by apparent IRS targeting of conservative political organizations. As Brookings commented, “Cracking down on tax cheats is probably a worthwhile investment, but it requires putting our trust in the IRS.”
Do you trust the IRS? Me neither.
Another big ticket item cited by Brookings is America’s disability insurance program, “which has become a kind of shadow welfare system” in which “some doctors appoint themselves as arbiters of who ought to get federal support.” Brookings concluded “disability insurance reform could save $10-$20 billion over 10 years.”
When we think about eliminating waste, fraud and abuse we should understand that they often persist because there are powerful constituencies (i.e. campaign contributors) ensuring their continuation . . .”
We could start with the affluent energy (think Yucca Mountain) and sugar lobbies, and go from there to identify major beneficiaries of governmental largesse. Enough already!
Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.