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EDITORIAL: Customized Snuggies

Back in the 1970s, Sen. William Proxmire, a Wisconsin Democrat, initiated his Golden Fleece Award. He handed it out every month until 1988 to highlight a particularly egregious waste of public funds. In 2008, Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, resuscitated the concept with an annual report titled “The Wastebook.”

Sen. Coburn didn’t run for re-election in 2014 so GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona has taken over publication of “The Wastebook.” And now the man who replaced Sen. Coburn — Republican Sen. James Lankford — joins the fray.

Last month, Sen. Lankford released the second edition of his “Federal Fumbles,” in which he documents “100 ways the government dropped the ball” with our money and cites $247 billion in questionable outlays.

“This ‘Federal Fumbles’ report provides specific examples of wasteful spending and unnecessary regulations that are not in the taxpayer’s best interest, and shows specific solutions for how the federal government can become more efficient,” he said.

Consider a few ridiculous examples:

• The National Institutes of Health spent $2 million to determine why children don’t like to eat food that’s been sneezed on.

• Federal health bureaucrats spent $500,000 to send text messages to people encouraging them not to smoke.

• The government issued more than $2 million in grants that were later misused, including one that allotted $1,000 for customized Snuggies.

• Washington appropriated half a million dollars for an effort to study the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of the medieval period.

• The National Science Foundation spent $315,000 to study how court rulings make people feel.

“We are trying to find some key areas that we can identify, and say here are some problems we have seen, and some things that we find as common-ground solutions,” Sen. Lankford said.

Every ludicrous federal outlay has a vocal constituency eager to get their hands on other people’s money. This culture of spending pervades virtually every congressional hearing. One study some time ago concluded that 96 percent of witnesses appearing before House or Senate committees testified in favor of bigger programs or appropriations. Fiscal sanity rarely enters the equation.

That’s why taxpayers owe a debt of gratitude to William Proxmire, Tom Coburn, Jeff Flake, James Lankford and other public servants willing to take on the incestuous special pleaders who dominate the Beltway scene.

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