Federal government needs to control its wasteful spending

Federal government needs to control its wasteful spending

Posted: Friday, November 16, 2012 7:01 pm

By CHATTANOOGA FREE PRESS

In October, Sen., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., released his annual “Wastebook” publication, which highlighted some of the most egregious examples of federal spending. Included among the 100 wasteful projects was a $325,000 grant awarded to San Diego State University (SDSU) and the University of California, Davis to develop a “RoboSquirrel.”
If you’re not familiar with the concept of a “RoboSquirrel,” you’re not alone. According to the Daily Caller, the purpose of the scheme is to observe and learn from the interactions of squirrels and rattlesnakes in the wilderness.
A reasonable person may likely think this objective could be accomplished by watching the animals interact on their own, but that’s apparently not good enough for the California scientists. Instead, $325,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent to build a RoboSquirrel that could “…mimic the way squirrels fend off snake attacks by rapidly wagging their tails.” Or so the researchers tell us.
In an attempt to justify this unjustifiable waste, SDSU assistant professor of biology Rulon Clark told The Daily Aztec, San Diego State’s newspaper, that “support of this research program goes toward (the students’) graduate degrees and trains the next generation of scientists and engineers.” Clark, who was one of the faculty scientists leading the RoboSquirrel project continued, “If you cut funding to basic science, you are cutting the opportunities of the student that can’t be taught in the classroom.”
Clark’s statement may sound logical, if we’re talking about the university spending its own dollars. But we’re talking about federal lawmakers taking money from the people in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina who read this paper and giving it to some lab rats in California to build a $325,000 robotic squirrel!
The lesson this unfortunate waste of taxpayer dollars teaches is that federal money should never be used to fund pork projects that don’t benefit to the broader population. To be clear, SDSU is free to use its research dollars however it likes; if it finds studying and creating a RoboSquirrel is a project worthy of funding, more power to them. But that does not make it a project that taxpayers’ dollars should be used to fund.Published in The WCP 11.15.12

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