Feds Spending $876,752 to Study Snail Reproduction While Closing Air Traffic Control Towers

If you really want to understand the wasteful spending of our federal government, start looking at all of the millions of dollars given away as grants.  Just last week I reported on $384,949 of taxpayer money that went to a grant to study duck penises.

Now I hear about another federal grant of $876,752 to study the benefits of snail sex in New Zealand mud snails.  The focus on the study is to determine which is best for the snail – to reproduce sexually or asexually.  These snails can reproduce via both methods.  By studying which is best for the snail, the researchers are hoping to gain more understanding on why so many plants and animals reproduce sexually.

I know this brings up all kinds of jokes and cartoon scenarios, but these researchers are serious about their work.  According to the abstract of the study:

“Sexual reproduction is more costly than asexual reproduction, yet nearly all organisms reproduce sexually at least some of the time. Why is sexual reproduction so common despite its costs.”

“This project will use a different organism, Potamopyrgus antipodarum, a New Zealand snail, which has both sexual and independently-derived asexual lineages that make it ideally suited to address fundamental evolutionary questions of how genes and genomes evolve in the absence of sexual reproduction.”

The grant was obtained through the National Science Foundation in 2011.  To date, the researchers have received $502,357 and if not stopped could pay out a grand total of $876,752 by 2015.  Over three-quarters of a million dollars to study the sexual habits of one species of snail is preposterous and reprehensible in the wake of the current financial crisis.

I’m a biologist by training and always loved doing research, but I would never dream of taking this kind of money while peoples’ lives are being endangered by the closing of air traffic control towers around the nation.  When these researchers are watching their snails enjoying themselves, are they thinking about the federal workers that are losing up to 20+ days of pay through furloughs?

This is why I strongly abdicate that a panel of regular civilians like you and I, be given the job of reviewing every penny spent by the federal government and then reporting that to the general population.  The panel would then have the authority to question or halt spending on certain things pending a more thorough review.  Anything found like the study of the snails and ducks that are not critical to the survival and safety of our nation, would have their funding cut immediately.

Such a panel could bring government spending and even the size of government back under control.  Total government expenditures would not be allowed to exceed the total government income.  We could once again have a balanced budget, live within our means and stop borrowing from our enemies like China.