Wastebook 2012: 'Robosquirrel,' Mars Menu Among Ways The Government Is Wasting Money

In this Oct. 5, 2012 photo, a gray squirrel sits in Montpelier, Vt. Biologists say a variety of natural forces have combined
In this Oct. 5, 2012 photo, a gray squirrel sits in Montpelier, Vt. Biologists say a variety of natural forces have combined to produce an overabundance of squirrels throughout Vermont and some adjoining states, devastating at least some apple orchards. It's expected the population could crash as rapidly as it grew.(AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

We all know that the idea of a “robosquirrel” built to hang out with rattlesnakes sounds really cool. But does it have to be funded with taxpayer dollars?

The "robosquirrel" is just one current project cited as an example of wasteful government spending in a new report called the "Wastebook 2012" from the office of Senator Tom Coburn (R - Okla.), a known deficit hawk and fiscal conservative. The report, which Coburn has released annually since 2010, lists 99 other cases that the Senator told Fox News are examples of “out-of-touch and out-of-control spending”.

With the U.S. currently facing a deficit of about $16 trillion amid a rocky recovery, the nearly $19 billion worth of government spending outlined in the report "is precisely why Washington must be more careful how tax dollars are spent to ensure we can care for those who are truly in need," Coburn was quoted as saying in CNN.

But some of the stuff currently financed by taxpayer dollars just sounds plain awesome.

Imagine, for example, a menu with items designed specifically to be eaten on the planet Mars? Though NASA doesn't currently have any missions planned, the agency is spending about $1 million per year on that idea. Frankly it sounds delicious.

That aforementioned “robosquirrel” project is costing about $325,000 but a rattlesnake already thought it looked so real it bit the rodent robot’s head, according to CNN. Isn't that adorable?

Or how about the chance to do your high school prom over again? $516,000 is going toward developing a video game meant to simulate the social experience, which, if done correctly, will be awkward and disappointing.

These gems aside, the report also lists some less creative ways that government money may be going to waste. The report cites rampant abuse of the food stamp program as well as a $268 million loophole allowing paper manufacturers to claim a waste byproduct as an alternative energy source, CNN points out.

Then, of course, there’s Congress itself. As questions remain whether the legislative body can avoid by year’s end the so-called “fiscal cliff,” a series of potentially disastrous spending cuts and tax hikes, the report cites it as its first example of wasteful government spending, calling it “the most unproductive and unpopular Congress in modern history.”



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