U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and John McCain (R-AZ) today released a new oversight report on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or economic stimulus bill. The Coburn-McCain report "Stimulus Checkup" examines how $7 billion in stimulus funds have been wasted, mismanaged, or directed toward silly and shortsighted projects.
"Across America families are making hard choices every day between competing priorities. Unfortunately, politicians in Washington refuse to make the same choices. The stimulus program is falling short of expectations because politicians in Washington -- both Republicans and Democrats -- can't say no to new spending, however wasteful or silly," Dr. Coburn said.
"No family in America would support many of the programs we've highlighted, such a duplicative $350 million broadband map or a $5 million eco-friendly energy project for a near-empty shopping mall. Our national debt has doubled over the past ten years because Washington can't set priorities. Wasteful project after wasteful projects has piled up, creating a mountain of debt for future generations. With just over $200 billion stimulus dollars spent already we hope this report will encourage the administration to spend remaining stimulus funds more wisely," Dr. Coburn said.
"Americans deserve to know how their government is spending the so-called stimulus funds," said Senator John McCain. "With unemployment at ten percent and an escalating national debt, we cannot afford to spend taxpayer dollars on projects that don't create jobs or promote real and sustainable economic growth. This report reinforces that much of the stimulus bill has been a failure."
Nine months after Congress passed a $787 billion economic stimulus package the rolls of the unemployed have grown by millions and, by any measure, more jobs have been lost than created.
In fact, three million Americans have lost their jobs and the percentage of people who are without work has risen to 10 percent.
Questionable projects highlighted in the report include:
1. Broadband Map That May be Obsolete by the Time it's Complete ($350 million): $350 million was awarded to states from the Department of Commerce to build a map of its broadband Internet infrastructure, though it duplicates existing maps. Rather than spend $350 million on the project, one firm said it could map the whole nation for $3.5 million -- one percent of the cost. Or, anyone with a computer could Google it -- for free.
2. Empty Mall Gets Energy Award ($5 million): $5 million was awarded to the Oak Ridge Mall in Tennessee to provide geothermal heat -- only the mall has few stores and customers.
3. Fossil Research in Argentina ($1.57 million): Researchers from Penn State will travel to Argentina to dig up plant fossils.
4. Anti-Capitalist Puppet Shows ($50,000): Puppet theatres with socialist, anti-capitalist messages were paid $50,000 to put on puppet shows.
5. Free Rides on Baltimore Water Taxi ($1.6 million): A program to offer free rides on the water taxi as a means of relieving road congestion got money despite it doing little to stop people from traveling in cars.
6. Digital Television Ad Campaign ($6 million): An ad agency was hired for $6 million one month before the switch to digital television--and reported creating three jobs with the money.
7. California Computer System ($60 million): In 2002, CA got $66 million to upgrade its computers for the unemployment insurance program. It spent the money on other things and just got another $60 million in stimulus for the same project.
8. Non-Competitive Contracts ($7.8 billion): Half of all stimulus contracts awarded as of the fall were not subject to full competition.
9. Mice, Alcohol and Drugs ($38,000): Studying the impact of alcohol and methamphetamines on mice and rats.
10. Tourist Railroad ($2 million): The Virginia & Truckee tourist railroad in Nevada will get more than $2 million for an extension.