Video game preservation, educational robot dragons and Department of Homeland Security Sno Cones are just some of the "outlandish" federally funded projects called out in U.S. Senator Tom Coburn's annual big book of wasteful government spending this week.
"Video games, robot dragons, Christmas trees, and magic museums. This is not a Christmas wish list, these are just some of the ways the federal government spent your tax dollars," Senator Tom Coburn, MD, said in his report. "Over the past 12 months, politicians argued, debated and lamented about how to reign in the federal government's out of control spending. All the while, Washington was on a shopping binge, spending money we do not have on things we do not absolutely need. Instead of cutting wasteful spending, nearly $2.5 billion was added each day in 2011 to our national debt, which now exceeds $15 trillion."
You had me at robot dragons, doctor congressman.
Sure, some of this stuff sounds crazy, super, super crazy, on paper. Take for instance the idea of doling out $6,279 so that the Department of Homeland Security can purchase thirteen Snow Cone machines for emergencies (and promotions.) I guess now they can hand you a rainbow flavored Snow Cone after an intimate cavity search at the airport.
My point... ? Oh right, not ALL of these ideas are wasteful or crazy.
Take that robot dragon for instance. It's actually a pretty cool bit of research by the National Science Foundation. Sure, it amounts to building a nearly $1 million animatronic robot to help teach preschoolers language skills. But I bet robot dragons aren't in teacher unions, so there's that right?
And finally we come to the reason I'm even writing about this: The International Center for the History of Electronic Games, which received more than $100,000 in federal fund for video game preservation. Specifically to assess the condition of their 23,000-piece collection. We've written about the preservation effort, it's pretty cool. I love that there is an archiver of video game history and its wares, both soft and hard, out there. But I can also see why it may upset some people who worry about the country's economy and the government's inability to balance the budget.
If it makes you feel any better, the video game preservation is probably the least terrible way to spend money on that list. It sure doesn't make Dr. Congressman Coburn any happier.
"Congress cannot even agree on a plan to pay for the costs of extending jobless benefits to the millions of Americans who are still out of work," he writes. "Yet, thousands of millionaires are receiving unemployment benefits and billions of dollars of improper payments of unemployment insurance are being made to individuals with jobs and others who do not qualify. And remember those infamous bridges to nowhere in Alaska that became symbols of government waste years ago? The bridges were never built, yet the federal government still spent more than a million dollars just this year to pay for staff to promote one of the bridges."
You can see the full report at the link.