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Mike’s Musings: Our tax dollars fund useless projects

Why is it that our federal government feels it can spend our tax dollars on projects that make little sense? Is it because there is no accountability? Or is it because out bureaucracy needs to spend the dollars allocated to their department to perpetuate their employment?
Whatever the reason spending is out of control. One of the biggest culprits, but also a darling of Congress, is the National Institute of Health (NIH). Its budget in 2021 was a whopping $43 billion. It is the sixth year in a row, Congress has increased the NIH budget by at least $1 billion.
Here is a list of some of the more egregious ways in which our tax dollars have been spent:
The NIH awarded researchers at the University of Kentucky almost $357,000, starting in 2010, to investigate the risky sexual habits of quails on cocaine.
Animal testing is often done before human trials are safe. But some studies seem stranger—and less humane—than others. With funding from the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Caltech researchers were given more than $8 million to dose rats with nicotine and then burn them to see if the drug had an effect on pain.
The NIH spent about $5 million to pay “hipsters” $100 each since 2011 to give up cigarettes in the hopes that this would influence others to quit smoking. A researcher from the University of California, San Diego—who was a contestant on “The Real World” when she was in medical school—led the successful anti-smoking effort.
With funding from the NIH, researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, released a 2018 report that honey bees dance more—a move that signals food location—when they’re given cocaine. The study shows that, like humans, insects can be motivated by feelings of reward.
During a three-year period starting in 2001, the NEH gave $450,000 to create a documentary about Tupperware. The film explores the “history of post-war marketing, industrial innovation, positive thinking, and housewifely entrepreneurship,” along with a look at the company’s founders.
Indiana Humanities received $300,000 from the NEH for “A Frankenstein Community Read,” programs launched in 2018 that take the themes of Frankenstein and explore how they relate to the role of science and technology in people’s lives.
The NSF awarded $580,896 in 2017 to researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Cincinnati to track eye movements and mating habits in female jumping spiders.
The NSF in 2010 gave $697,177 to a theater company in Brooklyn, New York, to develop a musical about climate change as a creative way to expose the public to science. While a musical might seem like a strange way to teach science, the project aimed to educate viewers about the scientific method by using an innovative technique.
In mid-2000, the Department of Defense invested $2 million to launch the Stealthy Insect Sensor Project to see if honey bees could be trained to detect bombs. The Army ultimately nixed the project as the bees were too unreliable.
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) gave a $10,000 grant in 2016 to Borderlands Theater in Tucson, Arizona, for a cactus theater. Attendees could commune with a saguaro cactus for an hour in the middle of the desert.
And the list goes on and on. Our government just loves to spend money. Fiscal responsibility has never been a priority and unfortunately, I don’t expect that it will ever change.

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