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Why Chimps Throw Poop… And 17 Other Examples of Government Waste

Never mind the $15 trillion national debt; the government blew $592,000 on a study last year to figure out why chimpanzees throw poop.

That's just one example of government waste described in a recent book by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK. His "Wastebook 2011" features 100 examples of needless or ill-advised government spending.

It adds up to $6.9 billion that America can't afford. And while such waste is just a fraction of the federal government's $3.8 trillion budget, a country that needs to borrow 36 cents of every dollar it spends should not be throwing money away on non-essential research.

Like why chimps throw poop.

Here are 17 other things the government wasted tax dollars on last year:

17 Ways Government Wastes Your Money

  1. Exporting Elmo: The U.S. Agency for International Development provided $10 million to a Pakistani arts organization to adapt "Sesame Street" for Pakistani toddlers. The money will also help pay for the creation of 130 episodes of the show.
  1. Dragon Robots for Preschoolers: The National Science Foundation spent $131,000 on robot dragons designed to mimic human responses to help teach preschoolers language skills. Apparently interaction with real humans was deemed inadequate.
  1. Virtual Mummies: Thanks to a $25,000 federal grant, visitors to the Milwaukee Public Museum will now be able to experience a "3-D high-definition, full-color true holographic or holographic-like exhibit of a virtual mummy unwrapping."
  1. Dead Man's Party: Those who complain federal employment benefits are already too generous won't be pleased to learn that many government workers keep receiving payments long after they've died. The Inspector General for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management says "the amount of post-death improper payments is consistently $100-$150 million annually, totaling over $601 million in the last five years."
  1. Cowboy Poetry: It's hard to recall John Wayne reciting verse in any of the many Westerns he made, but cowboy poetry is a big enough phenomenon to have its own annual celebration. And this year taxpayers helped pay for it courtesy of a $50,000 contribution from the U.S. government.
  1. Promiscuous Quail: The National Institute of Health gave the University of Kentucky $176,000 to determine if Japanese quail are more likely to have sex when high on cocaine. The study is scheduled to last through 2015.
  1. Happiness is … Social Media: Another National Science Foundation grant for $198,000 paid for a University of California-Riverside study of "motivations, expectations and goal pursuit in social media." Among the questions the study seeks to answer: "Do unhappy people spend more time on Twitter or Facebook?"
  1. Guilty Pleasure: The federal government gave the Hawaii Department of Agriculture $50,000 to help pay for the 2nd Annual Hawaiian Chocolate Festival. The goal is to "highlight the culinary talents and products specifically linked to Hawaii's chocolate industry."
  1. O Christmas Tree: The U.S. government spent $74,000 last year to help the state of Michigan "increase awareness about the role Michigan plays in the production of trees and poinsettias." Michigan's $40 million Christmas tree industry already ranks third in the nation.
  1. High on Pizza: A private company was given $484,000 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to build a Mellow Mushroom pizzeria in Arlington, TX. Mellow Mushroom is a national chain known for its use of hippie and drug themes.
  1. Tips for India: The National Science Foundation wants to help politicians in India do a better job. So it is awarded a $426,000 grant for research to determine the effectiveness of communications to citizens from officeholders. The U.S. sent $126 million in aid to India last year, even though it is one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
  1. Art for Italians: The State Department contributed $350,000 for the United States to be part of the 54th International Art Exhibition in Venice, Italy. No word on how much the exhibit enhanced U.S. international relations.
  1. Jobs for Barbados: The mixed success the government has had creating jobs here in America did not discourage the U.S. Agency for International Development from spending $1.35 million on an "entrepreneurship initiative" for the Caribbean island nation of Barbados. The U.S. unemployment rate has been over 8% for three years.
  1. Video Game Powerups: A video game promotional organization in Massachusetts landed $100,000 to help developers create intellectual property and help businesses get access to capital. Video game development is a $2 billion industry in Massachusetts.
  1. What Were They Smoking: The Virginia Commonwealth University received $55,000 in 2011 (part of a larger $170,000 grant) to study changes in the hookah smoking habits of students in the nation of Jordan. Among other things, the study sought to answer the question: "How many Jordanian students believe that water pipe tobacco smoking is more harmful than cigarettes smoking?" (Answer: 62.2 percent).
  1. Chinese Puzzle: The Chinese economy is second only to that of the United States. And China holds billions of dollars in U.S. debt. So the U.S. government sent $17.8 million in aid to China last year to improve the Asian giant's social services and clean up its environment. That makes sense, right?
  1. Do You Believe in Magic: Did you know there is an American Museum of Magic in Marshall, MI? Well, the magic museum made $147,000 of your tax dollars disappear last year. The purpose of the federal largesse was to help the museum "better understand its various audiences and their potential interest in the history of magic entertainment."

By the way, the researchers studying why chimps throw poop have theorized that it's a form of communication. Maybe they're trying to send a message to Washington.

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Join the conversation. Click here to jump to comments…

  1. Benton H Marder | February 22, 2012

    Tell me, is there a federally-funded research project to determine why dogs eat their own droppings? This is a burning issue among dog owners the world over.

  2. Enid France | February 22, 2012

    Think you should run a contest on this and each of the silly things that the Federal Government spends. I once wrote a serious proposal on 'How can FHWA prevent developers from ruining their plans for clustering developments along potential federal highways"? My serious response was that they were asking the wrong question – should have been "How can FHWA anticipate the impetus for development with a new federal highway?" Needless I didn't make it to the short list!
    My answer to the chimp question is either because they are bored or they are trying to expand their territory.
    Have too many stupid questions to recollect. Perhaps the chimps were trying to impede traffic flow!

    • Steve D | March 14, 2012

      The late William Proxmire did that with his Golden Fleece Awards. Slimebag. He showcased nickel and dime projects like this but never a peep on the bloated budgets from LBJ's Great Society. You know, the reason we don't have slums or crime any more.

  3. Gary | February 22, 2012

    Looks to me if the chimp researchers were trying to determine if there is any connection from them throwing poop, versus our elected officials throwing the bull poop and our hard earned tax money around.

  4. Dan | February 22, 2012

    Every bureaucrat who approved these pathetically stupid research programs should be called before a Congressional committee and made to explain the reasoning they used for approving these funds.
    Maybe after a couple dozen bureaucrats are humiliated the word will get out and the rest will actually put some brain cells to work before spending the taxpayers hard earned cash!

  5. joe | February 27, 2012

    Can we take the chimps to Congress, see if they can hit any members of Congress with the poop they throw ? At least I woudl feel like the study was a little more useful.

  6. Bob | March 14, 2012

    Strange, the Iraq war is not on the list.

  7. dee | March 14, 2012

    EVERY ONE of these examples can be explained by one word… LOBBYIST.

    If you want this waste to end, support legislation that limits the availability and influence of lobbying groups along with unlimited and annonymous corporate donations to Super PACs, etc.

    R's and D's are all the same… when it comes to the all mighty dollar being placed in their pockets.

    Btw, those listed above are "pennies" compared to the TENS OF BILLIONS given annually to the Oil/Gas industry that already post HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS in profits annually.

  8. KP | March 17, 2012

    I'll just leave this here…
    *Doot doot doo….*

  9. mjazz | March 19, 2012

    Meanwhile, we reward North Korea with 240,000 tons of food and Russia with 7 strategic, oil rich, Alaskan islands

  10. Paul Felix Schott | April 14, 2012

    Americans when is the last time you heard of a poor man hiring someone. China has more Millionaires then all the others countries on Earth why is that. 50 years ago China had the least amount of Millionaires and the USA had the most.

    All Taxes need to be lowered cut in half or there will be a lot more Poor and needy and not in just other countries. This 2012 year the World will see hunger like never before. More then 100 million will be sick from malnutrition going with out food and safe water to drink. Many will die. Taxing the poor and taking there Land away from them is Wicked. Very soon the wicked Rich leaders will become the Poor.

    If your Legislature will not lower Taxes vote them out of office and VOTE in someone that will Lower your Taxes. If your Son or Daughter was raised in a Christian Home we need them in our Government as Leaders. America is not the Roman Empire or the Persian Empire oh i am sorry the OPEC Empire. Why are we sending are Money and our young men and women over there to die. Have they not bled America long enough. So why are we still sending are hard Working Americans Taxes, to people who do not believe in Our Lord GOD and Savior Jesus Christ, that We Trust In. Not The wicked. For years they have kill many just for having a Bible.

    United We Will Always Stand
    In GOD We Trust
    True Patriots

    GOD Bless
    and May HE Guide you all.

    The Lord’s Little Helper
    Paul Felix Schott

    Many a Nation have fallen from taxing their people to Death. You want Prosperity and for things to Flourish and grow lower all taxes. You want thriving, success, or good fortune for only a few wicked, keep over taxing all.
    Solar, Wind and Renewable Energy Freedom from OIL. The Humanitarian thing to do. Solar Energy.
    Why let the Wicked in office in our Nation if they do not believe in GOD and the Bible vote them out of office.

    United We Will Always Stand in GOD We Trust

    George Washington and Johann Paul Schott 12/24/1776. 3:45AM

    In GOD We Trust
    The United States of America’s Motto July 30, 1956.
    King David’s Motto 3,000 years ago.
    Soon all the World will Pray to Our Lord GOD and Savior Jesus Christ.

    United We Will Always Stand in Our Lord GOD and Savior Jesus Christ We Trust
    True Americans

    • Bret | November 16, 2012

      You my friend are right… im not a religious man but you've nailed 99% of my belief!

  11. Jason | January 3, 2013

    Why do we keep putting these chowder heads back in office? Come on America…wake up! It's time for people to get off their lazy butts and start caring about who they elect. I swear, people are more worried about who wins "Dancing with the stars" than who is running for office. Stop voting the same people into office! Time to start voting against people who have been in office for years. They have no original ideas. They use the same failed ideas that have not worked in years. If you vote strictly along a party line….you are part of the problem. That ensures these hogs stay at the feeding pen. If you never vote outside your party next election use some brain power and think for yourself for once. the Statement "I don't Vote" is an excuse for being lazy. Get out and vote. Go look at a military cemetery….that is the price of your right to vote. How about honoring those fallen heros and do something. Ok…my rant is over.

  12. Eve | March 13, 2013

    Nobody thinks it is a good idea to spend money foolishly. But it is an unfortunate trend that politicians will highlight a small insignificant part of a study that when taken out of context seems crazy. So before I go believing all this, I find it is a good idea to get a bigger picture of the study. Listen, both sides of the isle cut and paste information to suit them….As tax payers, we should all make sure we aren't sold baloney from our guys or theirs.

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