The U.S. Department of Great Rivers and Rat Sperm
U.S. Sens. Tom Coburn and John McCain just released “Summertime Blues,” a report chronicling 100 wasteful uses of stimulus dollars. Let’s leave aside the question of whether the entire thing has been a waste, and tacitly agree that some types of stimulus spending can be relatively better than others. Spending $1 million for a highway that people need and use is better than spending $1 million for a highway that people don’t need and don’t use. But on to the waste and pork!
The report includes two examples in Missouri. Really, though, one should have been counted for Illinois rather than Missouri, which leaves us with only one citation for the Show-Me State. The expenditure that I dispute should be classified for Missouri — but without any dispute over its uselessness and absurdity — is the $430,000 given to the Army Corps of Engineers to enhance a museum about the Army Corps of Engineers. It’s no. 27 on p. 24 of the report. The museum, which I sheepishly admit I had never heard of (I go to
the East Side Metro East for one thing and one thing only), is dedicated to the Mississippi River and the Army Corps of Engineers, and is in East Alton, Ill. So, that’s $430,00 more in spending so that the Army Corp of Engineers can tell the public what a good job they do.
This is not to say that the Army Corps of Engineers doesn’t do a good job. Rather, they should just do a good job without feeling the need to tell us about it. If I lived in Louisiana in 1927 or 2005, though, I might feel differently.
The Missouri example is $180,000 for scientists at the University of Missouri to deal with the pressing problem of why rat sperm becomes less useful when it is thawed after freezing. (This is example no. 95 on p. 45.) Apparently, this is exactly the type of project for which the stimulus was designed.
All in all, it could have been worse for Missouri. Many of the projects in other states cost millions of dollars more, and most closely resemble a project akin to: dig hole; fill in hole; repeat. Example no. 10 is one of my favorites: $100,000 for “Town replaces new sidewalks with newer sidewalks that lead to ditch.”
No matter where this spending occurs, though, we all pay taxes for projects like this, and elected officials all (or almost all — there are a few exceptions) fight for local spending and spoils.