Coburn Calls Out Government Spending With Annual 'Wastebook'

Tuesday, December 17th 2013, 6:00 pm
By: News On 6

Senator Tom Coburn released his annual "Wastebook" Tuesday, highlighting 100 examples of wasteful and low-priority government spending, like $900,000 to study romance novels.

From a $400,000 NASA cartoon called Green Ninja to the $52,000 paycheck the Fort Hood shooter continues to collect, this year's "Wastebook" totals $30 billion.

It's become an annual event: Senator Tom Coburn calling out his colleagues in Congress for spending billions of taxpayer dollars on things he considers, well...

"Stupid. What I would consider stupid or at least poor judgement when it comes to spending money in a time when we have very little money to spare," said U.S. Senator Tom Coburn.

Many of this year's Wastebook projects come from defense spending, like Congress' continued funding of the C-27J planes - after the Air Force told Congress it didn't want them.

Read U.S. Senator Tom Coburn's "Wastebook"

According to the Wastebook, many of the planes are sitting unused at an Air Force Base in Arizona - costing taxpayers $432 million.

Then there's the military's decision to destroy more than $7 billion worth of equipment in the Middle East, rather than sell it or ship it back home.

"If you wanted to save a $100 billion a year at the Pentagon you could do it without any difficulty, without affecting our readiness our training or our supply," Coburn said.

The Wastebook outlines three projects specifically benefiting Oklahomans.

First, a $9.6 million grant going to universities including OU and OSU allowing scientists to study and combat whether cattle will shrink in size because of global warming.

12/17/2013 Related Story: Senator Coburn's 'Wastebook' Report Singles Out $30B In Federal Spending

A $333,000 USDA grant sending specialty crop producers like The Oklahoma Pecan Growers Association to travel to international trade shows.

McALester's Whispering Meadows Vineyards and Winery received a $200,000 USDA grant to buy new wine-making equipment to increase production.

Many of the projects Coburn admits are not bad projects, but he insists they shouldn't be funded right now.

"When you're spending money that you don't have on things you don't absolutely need and the result of that is lowering the standard of living for the young people in this country, I think that's immoral," said U.S. Senator Tom Coburn.

Coburn says he doesn't expect his Wastebooks to change anything. He said if Americans want to end wasteful spending, they should stop electing career politicians who are more concerned about getting reelected than making tough spending decisions.

By the way, the Oklahoma Pecan Growers Association argues its grant money was not a waste, but a tremendous asset in increasing their market to foreign countries.

Here are some rebuttals to the information provided in Senator Tom Coburn's Wastebook.

The President of the Oklahoma Pecan Growers Association, Randy Bryant, says the grant money they received sent several pecan growers to international trade shows and that it "was a tremendous asset to Oklahoma pecan growers increasing sales to foreign markets." Bryant estimates that Oklahoma pecans provide $20 million to the Oklahoma economy each year.

Professor Chuck Rice of Kansas State University is leading the $9.6 million study to combat climate-induced bovine weight loss. Rice argues the grant is not a waste of money. He says the goal of the project is to help the beef grazing industry develop more efficient systems in the wake of extreme weather like recent droughts.

"Even if you don't agree that climate change is happening, we still have deal with extreme weather events and this helps the industry deal with them," Rice said. "It makes it more stable - and if anything, more cost-effective."