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Here Are The Most Wasteful Government Projects In 2019
Senator Rand Paul talks with SiriusXM's Olivier Knox and Julie Mason during a Town Hall event on October 11, 2019 in New York City.
Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Each year, a senate Republican releases the “Wastebook,” detailing wasteful government spending. For years, the project was compiled by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), but Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) took up the cause after Coburn retired. Now Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) releases the annual wastebook, and this year contains some real doozies.

“Once again, The Waste Report takes a closer look at just some of what the federal government is doing with the American people’s hard-earned money,” Paul tweeted when releasing the report on Monday.

Paul’s report is supported by the government watchdog White Coat Waste Project (WCWP), which has previously awarded the Kentucky senator for his commitment to saving taxpayer money.

“Kudos to Senator Paul for smoking out government waste including $700,000 of Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars sent to England so experimenters can hook zebrafish on nicotine. Between nicotine-addicted fish, coked-up quails, and as we recently exposed, junkie monkeys, Uncle Sam is clearly addicted to spending, and we’re all paying the price. Sen. Paul’s Waste Reports are one of the best ways taxpayers can learn about egregious government waste that’s ballooned the national debt to a historic $23 trillion,” said WCWP President Anthony Bellotti.

Below are the eight projects highlighted in this year’s report. In total, Paul found the government wasted more than $230 million of taxpayer money on unnecessary pet projects.

  1. $708,466 To Get Zebrafish Addicted To Nicotine In The U.K.

Every year it seems at least one wasteful spending project involves animals. Remember the shrimp on treadmills?

This year, Paul highlighted a project sponsored by the National institutes of Health (NIH) that funded “a nearly five-year project that involves actively addicting its subjects, Zebrafish, to nicotine.” The study is supposed to “identify genes affecting vulnerability to addiction by screening lines of mutagenized zebrafish for core behaviors associated with addiction: sensitivity to drug reward and impulsivity.”

  1. $84,375 On A Statue Purchased From Bob Dylan For The Embassy In Mozambique

The State Department purchased an original Bob Dylan sculpture to display in its embassy in Mozambique. As the wastebook asks, does Dylan’s status as a musical icon “justify” the purchase?

  1. $22,000,000 To Bring Serbian Cheese Up To International Standards

So many of the projects detailed in the wastebook involve aid to other countries. Paul has spoken out against some of this aid many times before. One can disagree on whether the U.S. should provide aid to other countries, but some of the money being spent overseas should certainly raise questions.

One example is money spent by USAID on training cheesemakers in Serbia how to properly prepare the delicious food in line with international standards. Make cheese safe to eat is certainly a worthwhile endeavor, but does the U.S. government need to be spending the money to make sure Serbia’s cheese is safe?

  1. $4,658,865 To Study The Connection Between Drinking Alcohol And Winding Up In The ER

When you drink, you make stupid decisions. Sometimes, those decisions take you to the emergency room. This connection apparently needed further study, so the NIH spent more than $4 million looking into it. From the report:

Most recently, the researchers have pursued three goals. The first includes looking at alcohol use in the six hours before an injury, as well as the type of injury that brought patients to the ER, such as “traffic [accidents], falls … near drowning,” etc., in consideration of several factors in different countries, including legal restrictions on alcohol. Second, they are “estimat[ing] relative risk (RR) of injury related to alcohol consumption volume (dose-response relationship) by cause of injury,” (in layman’s terms, if you are more likely to get hurt, and how, if you drink more). Lastly, they are “estimat[ing] alcohol attributable fraction (AAF) by cause of injury…” (or in other words, the degree to which alcohol is responsible for the injury).

  1. $300,000 To Fund Debates And Model U.N. Competitions In Afghanistan

No one’s saying debate or the Model United Nations programs are wasteful or unimportant, but there is an argument to be made about whether the U.S. government should be funding such competitions and in which countries.

The grants offered by the State Department also require the competitions be held in English, but as Paul notes, just 6% of the Afghan population can speak English. Thus, the competition would be severely limited, making the choice for the grants questionable.

  1. $153 Million Spent On The Failing Washington Metro

If you’ve ever lived or visited Washington, D.C. and had to take the metro (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or WMATA), you know what an absolute disaster it is. No matter what media outlets claim about it being one of the best public subway systems in the country, those who have had to use it every day know this is not the case.

Just this morning a water main broke at the Pentagon metro station causing flooding. Then there are the routine fires, train outages, and massive, constant delays.

Still, the federal government continues to give the failing system more and more money to try and solve the problem, proving each year that throwing more money at a problem doesn’t solve it if the money isn’t spend properly. In addition to all the government funding, the metro also keeps hiking rates on passengers and then wondering why ridership is down. Maybe it’s because people would rather take a comfortable Uber ride to work, even with traffic, than have to stand around waiting for trains just to be smushed together in a thousand-degree subway car.

  1. $33,921,175 Spent On Textbooks For Afghan Students

Again, no one is saying Afghan students shouldn’t have access to textbooks or an education, but is it really America’s responsibility to provide those resources? We already grapple with the idea of being the “world’s police,” do we need to be the “world’s educators” as well?

Beyond the philosophical questions, the money, of course, is being spent improperly. Many of the textbooks given to Afghan students are subpar and sitting in warehouses instead of even going to the children?

  1. $22 Million Spent On Improving The Quality Of Egyptian Schooling

Along the lines of the previous entry, should the U.S. be educating the rest of the world? Also, as noted in the wastebook report, the U.S. education system is having its own crisis, and has been for decades. Given the problems with our own education system, how can we afford to be allocating federal funds to help educate students in other countries?

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