Grave Digging in Iceland, Tofu in Convenience Stores: Your Tax Dollars at Work

By Rachel del Guidice

The national debt is expected to hit $20 trillion early next year. Sen. James Lankford has a few ideas to start chipping away at it.

The Oklahoma Republican unveiled his second government waste and solutions report during a press conference Monday on Capitol Hill and Heritage Foundation event Tuesday. Lankford’s new report, “Federal Fumbles: 100 Ways the Federal Government Dropped the Ball,” identifies $250 billion in wasteful spending. His goal is to help Congress determine funding and programs that can be streamlined.

Lankford acknowledged that his report is not comprehensive, but is meant to offer common-ground solutions to wasteful government spending that would appeal to lawmakers of all partisan stripes.

“This is not about targeting Republicans, Democrats, any administration,” Lankford said. “Bureaucracy is bureaucracy, and inefficiency is present in every government. This is an issue of oversight.”

In order to significantly decrease the national debt and cut government spending, Lankford said both Congress and the Trump administration must be more engaged in oversight.

“With $19.5 trillion in debt, this is something that cannot be ignored,” Lankford said. “If we don’t get economic activity and we do not control our spending, this does not get better in the days ahead. It gets worse.”

Here are just six examples Lankford shared that are included in his report.

  1. Analyzing what 5-year-olds eat: The National Institutes of Health conducted a study that cost taxpayers about $2 million to analyze “how children perceive food, including testing to see when food is sneezed on, if 5-year-olds will still eat the food.” Lankford said this is a perfect example of unnecessary government spending. “Now I think we could have answered that question for less than $2 million,” Lankford said.
  2. Mandating tofu in convenience stores: A recent campaign by the U.S. Department of Agriculture attempted to get healthier food options for recipients of SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Lankford said in theory this is a good idea but in practice it is inefficient and unreasonable, as the initiative demands that convenience stores and gas stations that provide for SNAP benefits also provide tofu, almond milk, fresh shrimp or fresh catfish, or goat cheese. “I don’t know how many of you have been to a convenience store and purchased tofu or fresh catfish,” Lankford said. “But it is an unrealistic option and what it is doing is that it is causing retailers that are out there, especially in rural areas or in food deserts in urban areas to say, ‘We’re not going to provide SNAP benefits.’”
  3. Still using floppy disks: Currently, the United States spends “$80 billion per year in the federal government on technology,” Lankford said. He said that two-thirds of the recommendations from the Government Accountability Office that affect how this $80 billion in funding is spent have not been addressed. This means that information pertaining to nuclear arsenal in the United States is still being stored on technology with floppy disks, according to Lankford. “We have lots of spending going on in multiple agencies … maintaining old legacy hardware and old legacy software rather than dealing with the issues of how to handle and update technology for today,” Lankford said.
  4. Grave digging in Iceland: In order to cut waste in foreign aid spending, Lankford said, the U.S. should only fund programs that also benefit the U.S. economy. “Instead, sometimes we deal with foreign aid like studying fish bones in Tanzania … and doing grave digging in Iceland, which we have paid for recently to be able to study the cultures in the 8th century to the 12th century in Iceland,” Lankford said. This type of spending, according to Lankford, is unnecessary and in no way helpful to the U.S. economy or allies in need of assistance.
  5. Fighting climate change: In the northern triangle of Central America, the U.S. has designated $750 million in foreign aid earmarked for the purposes of fighting corruption, reducing violence, and encouraging economic development. However, according to Lankford, millions of these dollars are instead being used to fight climate change.
  6. Paying the British to learn about volunteering: Taxpayers are paying for British citizens to come to the U.S. and observe American volunteers at work. “Now that does seem like an ultimate irony to me that we are paying British citizens to watch American volunteers so that can learn more about volunteering,” Lankford said. “When we target foreign aid, we need to make sure that foreign aid is specifically targeted to be able to help us long term.”

*Originally published at the Daily Signal, click here.

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