Friday, January 12, 2018

Money For Nothing (It's A Spending Spree)

                The Founders knew that if the federal government wasn’t tightly and explicitly constrained, it would become an all-encompassing behemoth. Students of history, they knew a government big enough to give you everything you want is one big enough to take away everything you have. That is why, other than for a brief period to finance the Civil War, the United States didn’t have an income tax, in the modern sense of the term, until the Sixteenth Amendment was ratified in 1913, 137 years after the nation was founded. How did the U.S. manage to grow so fast, economically and territorially, in those early years? How did it win wars (other than the Civil War) and build a vast industrial infrastructure? How were its budding entrepreneurs able to found companies and develop so many inventions that changed the world for the better? And all of this without incurring massive debt?
                Fast forward to the Obama Era, a century or so after the Sixteenth Amendment was ratified. Can we rest assured that Uncle Sam is still a careful steward of each and every one of our tax dollars? Apparently not. We are now approaching $20 trillion in debt. That means, in a sense, we have $20 trillion dollars less than no dollars. So, we rely on treasury trickery and budgetary chicanery to obfuscate the looming monetary crisis ahead. To be fair, neither Democrats nor Republicans appear to give a rat’s ass about this, or appear to be able to look a single constituent in the eye and say, “Enough is enough. At times you may have to do something to better your o life.”
                How crazy have things gotten? In 2014, The Ohio State University used a $387,000 National Institute of Health grant to study the benefits of giving rabbits Swedish massages. This money originated in taxpayers wallets. Is it absolutely crucial to the future of our Republic that we rub rabbits to see what happens? I assume the originators of the study thought there could be some benefit to humans from this experiment. If this was indeed the case, perhaps the study could’ve used Playboy Bunnies instead of trying to extrapolate from actual rodents. It may have been more enjoyable for both parties.
                Meanwhile, at the University of California-Santa Cruz, a professor was awarded an $856,000 taxpayer-funded research grant from the National Science Foundation for a study that put mountain lions on treadmills, to gauge their cardio-vascular capacity. My first thought was, “They’re lions. They roam the mountains. They’re probably in pretty good shape!”
                Apparently, I was wrong.
                The study concluded that “mountain lions do not have the aerobic capacity for sustained, high-energy activity. They are power animals. They have a slow routine walking speed and use a burst of speed and the force of the pounce to knock down or overpower their prey.”             
                Astounding! Who knew? Now we need a study to determine how boa-constrictors kill other animals. Another 856 large should generate this result: “They’re not fast, but they can really put the squeeze on their prey.” 
                The University of Rochester spent no less than $171,361 to create a computer game…to lure monkeys into playing computer games and gambling, in order to explore their addictive and chance-taking tendencies. The researchers were able to conclude that the chimps not only love to gamble and play video games, but share humans’ belief in winning and losing streaks. Really? 171-grand to get monkeys addicted to gambling? What’s next, spending a quarter of a million dollars to turn horses into alcoholics? Half a million to get elephants addicted to porn?
                In 2016, the National Science Foundation spent $560,000 to study fish crawling on a treadmill. (Is there any living creature they won’t put on a treadmill? Maybe they should put the bleeping budget on a treadmill and see if that would slim it down).
                That same year, the National Institute of Health coughed up $817,000 to study monkey saliva, while the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS?) “invested” $150,000 in a gingerbread house that can “withstand the force of an earthquake.” (How about we invest money to make actual houses able to withstand the force of an earthquake?” Just sayin’). The last year of the Obama administration also saw our old friends at the National Science Foundation use three separate grants, totaling $450,000, to determine whether or not dinosaurs could sing or make bird-like sounds. Their conclusion? They could not. (Though they did leave open the possibility that they could make mumbling noises)!
                And, the Department of Commerce granted $1.7 million towards the construction of the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, New York. This edifice was to recreate classic comedy routines using holographic technology. (I cherish humor and find many things funny, but not this. This is no laughing matter).
                If we the people can’t even find the will to challenge expenditures such as rabbit massages, it will obviously be impossible to address massive entitlement spending programs like social security, Medicare and Medicaid.
                In a relatively few short years, entitlement spending- and interest on the national debt- will consume all federal tax revenues.
                Come to think of it, I need that National Comedy Center.
                (The figures above come from the “Wastebook,” an annual publication put out by conservative Congressmen. The 2017 report found more than $5 billion of what it termed truly “outrageous” spending by the federal government in 2016 alone).

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