The $862 billion stimulus bill that was supposed to rescue the American economy instead mired it in billions of ill-advised spending, two GOP senators charged Tuesday.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, issued their latest report on the wasteful spending in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Their report cites some 100 cases of wasted stimulus money. The senators report that "misdirected government spending" has actually hurt small businesses in some cases by pulling them away from more productive activity.
Coburn and McCain provided several examples of legislative pork and wasteful spending in their "Summertime Blues" report, which is subtitled "100 stimulus projects that give taxpayers the blues."
The Citizens Against Government Waste watchdog organization hailed the study on Tuesday. "President Obama talks incessantly about wasteful government spending and reining in the budget deficit," CAGW President Tom Schatz said in a statement, "yet his policies do the opposite and end up spending more taxpayer money than any previous president."
The top 10 most wasteful projects, according to the senators' report:
1. Over half a million dollars was spent to replace the windows in a visitor center at Mount St. Helens. The only problem is that center closed nearly three years ago due to lack of use.
2. Three-quarters of a million dollars went to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to create a computerized dance-choreography program. The university's overhead is 44 percent of the grant, the report stated.
3. $62 million was allocated for the North Shore Connector, which provides light rail transportation to a casino and two sports stadiums in Pittsburgh. In February 2009 Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, called the project a "tragic mistake."
4. $7.3 million for the construction of two fire stations in San Antonio, Texas. The senators report the city was about to build the stations itself when the federal funding came along. Since then, compliance with federal regulations has caused so many delays no one is sure now when the stations will be built, they say.
5. Some $1.2 million was set aside to convert an abandoned train station into a museum in Glassboro, N.J. Federal authorities provided $250,000 to buy the structure in 2002, but little or no work has been done there. Now they're going to invest another $1 million to change the graffiti-riddled station, which was built in 1860, into a "museum and welcome center."
6. Nearly $2 million is going to the California Academy of Sciences to send researchers to island in the Southwest Indian Ocean and to East Africa to photograph ants. The pictures will be posted on a Web site devoted to ants.
7. A $1.8 million road project in Ohio is being built so close to a pastor's house that it has cracked his foundation, and a massive crane has struck his front porch twice.
8. In 2004, the federal government provided $661,000 to refurbish the old Fitchburg Furnace building in Fitchburg, Ky. The treasurer of the Friends of Fitchburg organization, however, says much of that money was lost due to "bad stewardship of money." Now, thanks to the stimulus, the project is receiving another $350,000.
9. In Kern County, Calif., the government is investing $308 million for a power plant to "generate more environmentally friendly electricity by capturing carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels." It's hard to see how the money will stimulate the economy … groundbreaking isn't scheduled until December 2011.
10. Folks in Boynton, Okla., are perplexed because their town won $89,298 to build a quarter-mile long sidewalk. The new sidewalk leads to a ditch, and replaces one still in good condition that was built just five years ago.
The report also highlights two controversial studies of primates. Georgia State University researchers won $677,462 to compare how monkeys and chimpanzees respond to "distributional inequality" and "unfairness." Another $72,623 went to Wake Forest University to study how monkeys react under the influence of cocaine.
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