Taxpayers Funding Robosquirrels, Star Wars Parties, Beef Jerky Research

Game and puzzle exhibits, circus classes, an Indian-American comedy tour and talking urinal cakes are all featured in Sen. Tom Coburn’s annual government “Wastebook.”

Coburn has highlighted 100 programs funded by various federal agencies using taxpayer money for a grand total of more than $18 billion in waste.

Among the highlights:

  • Moroccan pottery classes (part of a $27 million grant from U.S. Agency for International Development)
  • Efforts to promote caviar consumption and production ($300,000)
  • Robotic squirrel named “RoboSquirrel” (part of a $325,000 grant from the National Science Foundation)
  • Corporate welfare for the world’s largest snack food producer, PepsiCo Inc. ($1.3 million)
  • “Prom Week,” a video game that allows taxpayers to relive prom night ($516,000)
  • Oklahoma’s layover boondoggle, a scarcely used airport in Oklahoma receiving nearly half-a-million in taxpayer dollars only to transfer funds elsewhere in the state ($450,000)
  • The 2012 Alabama Watermelon Queen tour paid for in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “to promote the consumption of Alabama’s watermelon through appearances of the Alabama Watermelon Queen at various events and locations” ($25,000)
  • Penny production. Manufacturing a penny now costs 2.4 cents each. ($70 million annually)
  • Speed reading faces. NSF funds used to study whether people can determine a person’s sexual orientation with just a glance. ($30,000)
  • Pet shampoo. HUD money goes to a pet shampoo company for machinery to make pet toothpaste and shampoo. ($505,000)
  • Golf putting study. NSF funds go to a study of how golfers can putt better if they envision the hole is bigger. ($350,000)
  • Chatty urinals. Dept. of Transportation dollars are used in Michigan to buy 400 talking urinal cakes to fight drunk driving. ($10,000)
  • The sun’ll come out tomorrow. NSF funds spent on a musical about biodiversity and climate change. Reviews of the play said it was boring and needed improvement. ($445,444)
  • Beef jerky defense. DOD is researching a new way to make beef jerky with processed meat. Several other jerky companies have received federal funds this year. ($700,000)
  • May the Force be with you. IMLS funds used by a local library to put on a Star Wars party for teenagers. ($11,700)
  • Grandpas and goblins. Researchers study whether the elderly could play World of Warcraft to increase their cognitive function. They used NSF funding. ($1.2 million)

See the complete list here.