Watchdog calls out the government’s most ridiculous spending

Federal spending is careening out of control – as Washington bureaucrats fritter our tax dollars away on slots-playing pigeons and zombified cats.

Four months after the US national debt shot past the $30 trillion mark for the first time in history, a new report from Illinois-based nonprofit American Transparency is detailing some of the foolish, fraudulent, and frivolous federal projects that have spent us into an economic ditch.

“The federal government isn’t just wasting your money. They are literally ripping you off,” said Adam Andrzejewski, the group’s founder. “They are milking taxpayers like dairy cows.”

Andrzejewski pointed to a March report from the Government Accountability Office that tallied $281 billion in improper and mistaken payments in 2021 alone – without evening to count the billions wasted on fraud-ridden COVID relief programs.

“What government program is running well?” he asked.

In their annual “Where’s The Pork?” Report, Andrzejewski and his team of fiscal analysts crunch the numbers on the exorbitant discretionary spending that has come to light in the last two years. Here’s just some of what they found.

Pigeon Slots

Cost: $465,339

The National Institute of Health sent nearly half a million dollars to a college to create a casino for pigeons.
The National Institute of Health sent nearly half a million dollars to a college to create a casino for pigeons.
Post photo illustration

Taxpayers are rolling the dice on a high-stakes study that aims to untangle the psychology of gambling addiction – by building a casino for pigeons. The National Institute of Health has sent nearly half a million dollars to uber-liberal Reed College in Portland, Ore., where researchers are taking three years to create a “self-contained miniature economy” for the school’s flock of birds. The pigeons receive currency-like tokens that they can “earn, accumulate, spend, or gamble” on slot machines, Dr. Timothy Hackenberg explained in the project’s abstract. But even he admits the “practical applications” of his work are few. Presumably the eye-popping budget is needed to pay for all the comped rooms, free drinks, and tiny uniforms for feathered cocktail waitresses.

Fake Farms

Cost: $7 million

Giddy-up, pardner, and round up some COVID cash! The pandemic was a bonanza of wasteful federal spending. Case in point: a single loan processing company sent about $7 million worth of Paycheck Protection Program checks to imaginary farms in impossible places, a ProPublica investigation found. Scammers successfully claimed that tiny Beach Haven, NJ, a resort town of bungalows and marinas just north of Atlantic City, was home to phantom farming operations like the Beefy King cattle ranch and the Deely Nuts tree nut farm. “There’s no farming here,” Joe Mancini, the local mayor, told the watchdog group. “We’re a sandbar, for Christ’s sake.” The ranch, according to the fraudulent filings, operated at Mancini’s home address – where he keeps three dogs, he said, but no cows.

The National Science Foundation spent a pretty penny on capturing lizards.
The National Science Foundation spent a pretty penny on capturing lizards.
Colin Donihue via AP

Leapin’ Lizards

Cost: $75,000

Harvard biologists turned a leaf blower, a wooden pole, and a lounge of Caribbean lizards into a $75,000 payday. The National Science Foundation, claiming concern about worsening climate-change-induced hurricanes, paid researchers to capture 47 anole lizards in the Turks and Caicos Islands, then blast the animals with leaf blowers. The scientists filmed the critters hanging onto their sticks for dear life in windspeeds up to 108 mph – and kept recording as they went flying. The experiment produced some hilarious YouTube footage, plus a theory that bigger toes help lizards survive hurricane-force winds.

A Florida lab is intent on turning male monkeys female using hormones.
A Florida lab is intent on turning male monkeys female using hormones.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Transgendered Monkeys

Cost: $477,121

A Florida lab is dosing male rhesus macaques with feminizing hormones – intent on turning them trans. The experiment, funded by Dr. Anthony Fauci’s National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, aims to figure out why male-to-female transgender humans suffer high levels of HIV infection. “HIV/AIDS thrives in the margins of society,” reads the uber-woke project description. “No population is more affected by these social injustices than transgender persons.” The scientists suspect estradiol, the hormone commonly given to transgender women, may weaken the immune system. Next up: drag monkey story hour in your local library.

Cow Surveillance

Cost: $45,000

National Science Foundation and the DigitalGlobe Foundation funded a satellite livestock project at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
National Science Foundation and the DigitalGlobe Foundation funded a satellite livestock project at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Maxar Techologies via UC Santa B

Where’s the beef? Check the satellite feed. With cash from the National Science Foundation and the DigitalGlobe Foundation, undergraduates at the University of California Santa Barbara spent eight months looking at satellite images of cows, in a project that studied the interactions between livestock and wildlife. Udderly confused students were asked to figure out how cows at Point Reyes National Seashore could coexist with native tule elk without butting heads. “Spotting cows from space — not your typical student research,” admitted ecologist Doug McCauley, who led the project.

Star-studded COVID Handouts

Cost: $14 million

Robert Redford's Sundance Institute received over $3 million in COVID loans.
Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute received over $3 million in COVID loans.
AFP via Getty Images

The rich got richer during the coronavirus pandemic, thanks to Uncle Sam. Bold-faced names like Kanye West, Robert Redford, and Francis Ford Coppola collected big bucks in 2020 from the COVID relief Paycheck Protection Program. West, who now has a net worth of about $6.6 billion, received $2.4 million for Yeezy, LLC, his famous sneaker company, which was valued at $2.9 billion at the time. Meanwhile, $3.04 million in loans went to Redford’s Sundance Institute. Two of Coppola’s companies, Francis Ford Coppola LLC and Niebaum Coppola Estate Winery, LP received a combined $8.5 million. The PPP program was created to help businesses stay afloat and keep idled workers off the unemployment rolls, but for wealthy celebrities, the forgivable loans didn’t make any cents.

“Zombie” Russian Cats

Cost: $549,331

Grisly experiments in a Russian lab turned cute kitties into electrically-controlled zombies – with the help of the US government. Researchers at the Pavlov Institute of Physiology in St. Petersburg, Russia were paid by the US National Institutes of Health to “decerebrate” 18 healthy cats, severing their brain stems to prevent movement while keeping them alive. The ghoulish scientists then used electrical charges to make the cats walk on treadmills, transforming them into the walking kitty dead. Congressional Republicans exploded at President Biden when news of the “cruel and wasteful” tests leaked earlier this year, just days after Russia invaded Ukraine. “Our foreign adversaries, especially ones run by tyrants, should not be given US tax dollars to conduct heinous animal research,” they wrote in a March 10 letter to the president.

One of the less elegant sources of federal spending in a study of animal feces.
One of the less elegant sources of federal spending in a study of animal feces.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Cowa-Dung-a!

Cost: $556,584

A smelly study funded mainly by the National Science Foundation measured animal poop to test “a mathematical model of defecation.” Researchers recorded footage of pandas, elephants, warthogs, and more in their most private moments, then examined and weighed the bowel movements, taking notes on the feces’ size and shape and recording the duration of defecation. The crappy study collected poop samples from 43 species at Zoo Atlanta, university animal facilities, and farms. The scientists’ “doody”: to discover new non-invasive methods of diagnosing animal diseases. If you’ve ever wondered just how much dung a lion produces each day (less than one pound, it turns out), your taxpayer dollars have been well spent.

The government sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into the NSA's failed parking garage.
The government sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into the NSA’s failed parking garage.
AFP via Getty Images

NSA’s Never-Used Garage

Cost: $3.6 million

The National Security Agency may be America’s top intelligence-gathering organization, but it lacks the smarts to build a functional employee parking lot. A blistering 2021 inspector general’s report shamed the agency for wasting $3.6 million on a hastily built modular parking deck at its Ft. Mead, Maryland headquarters. The finished garage, meant for 250 vehicles, held just 87 – costing $34,000 per spot, the IG calculated. Worse, the structure’s European designers didn’t take the size and weight of American cars into account. After a year of safety testing, the agency admitted that the garage was too flimsy to use. The NSA paid $500,000 to demolish the structure – which never welcomed a single employee vehicle — in 2019.

The National Cancer Institute funded a project developing toilet cameras.
The National Cancer Institute funded a project developing toilet cameras.
Gambhir et al/Nature

Toilet Cams

Cost: $6.97 million

Butt’s up, doc? Scientists from Stanford University used nearly $7 million in funds from the National Cancer Institute to build an artificially intelligent toilet system that films the user’s nether regions. Just like your fingerprint, the researchers claim, your derriere has up to 37 unique creases that create an individually identifiable “analprint.” The toilet’s internal cameras and computers analyze the user’s urine flow, track time spent on the bowl, and evaluate stool to gauge its owner’s overall health. The data is regularly uploaded to a secure one hopes internet cloud. However, the Stanford team acknowledges, “To fully reap the benefits of the smart toilet, users must make their peace with a camera that scans their anus.”

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