By Erik Wasson - 10/16/12 12:34 PM EDT
Congress is 2012’s biggest waste of taxpayer money, according to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a budget hawk who each year releases a “Wastebook” detailing government’s worst examples of excessive spending.
In this year’s list, Coburn notes that Congress — one-half of which is controlled by his own party — is on track to be at its least productive since 1947. It has approved only 61 laws this year, and Coburn says money spent to run Congress has been a waste.
“All of the outrageous and wasteful contents of this report were made possible by either the action or lack of action of Congress, earning it the well-deserved but unwanted distinction as the biggest waste of taxpayer money in 2012,” Coburn writes.
The report singles out the Senate Budget Committee for failing to produce a budget, and the Senate Finance Committee for failing to produce any major tax code or entitlement legislation this year.
Coburn has been working with a bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of Eight in an effort to forge a deficit-reduction plan, and has authored his own plan to cut the deficit by $9 trillion.
Coburn, who has pushed his party to eliminate tax breaks he sees as wasteful spending, identifies spending provisions and tax breaks that, if eliminated, could save $18 billion.
These include spending to encourage caviar eating; tax breaks for the National Football League and other professional sports; rules that allow people to use food stamps for fast food and alcohol; a NASA project to develop pizza to eat on Mars and a $325,000 grant to produce a robot squirrel designed to lure rattlesnakes.
The annual report is filled with bizarre examples of government spending. In one section, Coburn's staff ridicules a grainy, $500,000 government video game about high school proms that is used to teach social skills.
"A video trailer of the game shows one girl, Monica, described as 'cold, attention hog, sex magnet, vengeful,' turning down a boy Zack (described as 'arrogant, stubborn, outgoing, honest'). In another scene, Zack says to a girl, 'We have so much in common. You like wolf spiders. I like wolf spiders. It’s like we’re made for each other!' "
The list also includes taxpayer money being used to renovate a luxury yacht and to pay for shuttle buses to the Super Bowl.
“As you look at these examples, put your personal political persuasion aside and ask yourself: Would you agree with Washington that these represent national priorities, or would you conclude these reflect the out-of-touch and out-of-control spending threatening to bankrupt our nation’s future?” Coburn asks.
This story was posted at 8:34 a.m. and last updated at 12:57 p.m.