Issues

McCain Identifies $1.1 Billion in Wasteful Spending

New report continues Coburn’s ‘naming and shaming’ of frivolous gov’t projects

John McCain
John McCain / AP

Following in the footsteps of retired Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.), Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) released the first edition of America’s Most Wasted, an oversight report that seeks to expose wasteful federal spending.

"Government spending is spiraling out of control," McCain writes in the report, released Thursday. "The national debt recently exceeded $18 trillion, while our $486 billion deficit is projected to reach $1 trillion over the next decade. Washington’s repeat fiscal offenses are leading us down a dangerous path—sending hard-earned American tax dollars to mismanaged and wasteful programs."

The report totaled more than $1.1 billion in questionable government spending, as well as $294 billion that was spent on expired federal programs.

Citing a report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), McCain said the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) "have received tens of billions of tax dollars even though their authorization to receive federal funding has expired."

The report noted waste is "not uncommon in these two research agencies."

The list also includes a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for a 10-day "Puppets in the Green Mountains Festival" in Vermont.

Selections from the festival included "White Like Me: A Honky Dory Puppet Show."

Other wasteful projects cited by McCain included a Free Beacon report on a project to create a website for kids to learn how to be safe with their pet dogs. The NIH study cost taxpayers $390,798, despite numerous existing websites and outreach programs that address pet safety.

"With so many public health concerns facing the United States, including the recent outbreak of Ebola and a lack of funding to fight deadly diseases across the globe, it is vital that Congress ensure NIH spends its funding on essential—not duplicative—programs," McCain’s report said.

The report also includes $225.3 million in Social Security overpayments and $50,000 spent by the Army to study the bomb-detecting capabilities of elephants.

McCain said his series of oversight reports will attempt to continue Coburn’s "naming and shaming of outrageous pork projects," whose infamous annual Wastebook unearthed $91 billion in government waste during its run.

"Unnecessary, wasteful government spending is putting America on a dangerous path, burdening future generations with a mounting national debt now totaling more than $18 trillion," McCain said in a statement. "I believe the America’s Most Wasted reports should serve as a wake-up call to Congress and the American people keep their government accountable by demanding an end to wasteful government spending."

"At a time when Americans’ disapproval of government is at an all-time high, it has never been more important to reign-in spending and put our fiscal house back in order," he said.

Since Dr. Coburn left office last year, several members of Congress have attempted continue his work.

Rep. Steve Russell (R., Okla.) unveiled the first edition of "Waste Watch" in April, which identified $117 million in frivolous spending.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) identifies several wasteful projects a month in his #PorkChops series, which included a $4.6 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) project to combat a plant disease found in garden roses, which is a $400 million industry.

Flake said the project was the "most egregious rose handout since Jake chose Vienna," referring to season 14 of the reality series The Bachelor.