As the fight over how to fix America’s overspending habit ended in a stalemate this year, the federal government spent billions of dollars in 2011 on some unusual projects. And according to a new report from Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, $6.5 billion of it was wasted.
The list includes more than $100,000 on a video game “preservation” center, $120 million in salaries to dead employees and $15.3 million for one of the infamous Bridges to Nowhere — all in a year when the federal deficit rose by nearly $2 trillion.
Coburn’s “Wastebook 2011” report lists 100 of the most egregious spending boondoggles.
Here are the top 10 most ridiculous things the federal government paid for this year:
10. $764,825 for a study on how college students use cell phones and social media
The National Science Foundation awarded the University of Notre Dame this grant to study the mobile and social media habits of college freshmen. We can tell you exactly how college freshmen use mobile phones and social media: for 3 a.m. texts and phone calls to that girl in American History. We could have saved the government a lot of money. Just ask us.
9. $136,555 for teachers to retrace Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in England
This grant, awarded to teachers from Kent State and Eastern Illinois Universities, allowed Middle English lit fanatics to take the trip outlined in Canterbury Tales. We’re betting £10 that the tour guides just make up half of the landmarks.
8. $55,660 on butter packaging
Kriemhild Dairy Farms received this chunk of change to package their grass-fed cow butter. The funding isn’t the only thing that’s too big: The butter itself is 85 percent fat.
7. $606,000 for a study about online dating
Columbia University researchers received over a half-million dollars to study online dating. Maybe the Ivy League nerds who conducted this study should put down the lab coats and go to a bar — or at least the library.
6. $484,000 for a pizza restaurant
Arlington, Texas has one more beer and pizza joint, thanks to this grant to a private developer. The groovy Mellow Mushroom, a national chain, is known for its hippie theme.
5. $48,700 towards the Second Annual Hawaii Chocolate Festival
These funds were awarded to promote Hawaii’s chocolate industry. The Aloha State is already full of sandy beaches, clear blue water, and sun. Why do they get all the good stuff? (That’s the mayor of Hershey, Pennsylvania on Line 1.)
4. $147,138 to build a magic museum
Maybe the wizards at the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Mich., can make the federal deficit disappear. The grant was awarded to promote the “history of magic entertainment.”
3. $96,000 on iPads for kindergarteners
One school district in Maine was awarded this grant to buy every kindergarten student the latest Apple gadget. These kids can’t add yet, but thanks to Uncle Sam they’ll never need to.
2. $175,587 for a study on the link between cocaine and the mating habits of quail
The funding for this super-important scientific study is down from its 2010 level of $181,406. But we think the amount is ridiculous for research that proves what the film “Blow” already did: that cocaine is linked to high-risk sexual activity.
1. $130,987 for dragon robots
We think the phrase “dragon robots” sounds pretty cool. But when their purpose is to help develop preschoolers’ vocabulary, that’s when we get a little worried. The National Science Foundation will spend nearly $1 million over four years to determine if the dragon-shaped robot can enhance toddlers’ learning skills — because Elmo and Barney are just so 1990s.