Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., released his “Wastebook 2012″ report yesterday, an annual look at how the federal government wastes taxpayer dollars. Here are just 5 of the 100 wasteful federal policies that cost taxpayers more than $19 billion a year:
1) National Football Loophole
The 32 teams of the National Football League may generate more than $9 billion annually, but the league itself is actually organized as a non-profit entity. Section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code specifically exempts “business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade and professional football leagues” from federal taxes. The NFL receives about $184 million from a year from its member teams and holds over $1 billion in assets. While Major League Baseball is taxed like any business, the NFL and other leagues the PGA are not. Together, these professional sports leagues cost taxpayers $91 million a year.
2) Junk Food Stamps
Recently renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), there actually is no requirement that food stamps must be spent on healthy foods. According to the Department of Agriculture, “soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, and ice cream” are all “eligible items” that can be paid for with food stamps. A study by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity found that more than $2 billion of beverages sweetened with sugar are purchased with food stamps every year.
3) Free Cell
Since 1966 Congress has mandated that the Federal Communications Commission ensure a “baseline level of telecommunications services for everyone in the United States.” That baseline “an evolving level of telecommunications that the [Federal Communications] Commission shall establish periodically… taking into account advances in telecommunications and information technology and services.” In 2008, the FCC ruled that prepaid cell phones were eligible to receive federal funding under this program. Since that time, spending on the program has sky rocketed from under $100 million in 2008 to over $1.5 billion in 2012.
4) The Science of Gaydar
A $30,000 grant from the National Science Foundation helped pay for a study by researchers at the University of Washington and Cornell University finding that not only is Gaydar real, it is actually often accurate. Researchers “conducted experiments in which participants viewed facial photographs of men and women and then categorized each face as gay or straight,” according to The New York Times. After viewing the photos for just 50 milliseconds “participants demonstrated an ability to identify sexual orientation: overall, gaydar judgments were about 60 percent accurate.”
5) World of Oldcraft
A $1.2 million National Science Foundation helped pay for a study which asked 39 adults ages 60 to 77 to play “World of Warcraft” for two hours a day over two weeks. The study found no cognitive improvement in older people who already scored well on cognitive tests.