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Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, a Republican, released his annual “Federal Fumbles” report highlighting the many areas he and other deficit hawks say are wasteful government projects.
Lankford releases the report each year, keeping the tradition set by his predecessor, former Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn.
The report details odd projects funded by taxpayers, mostly through grants to various government agencies. While Lankford’s report outlined scores of random projects amassing $473.6 billion in spending, here are some of the most peculiar ones.
A $30,000 recreation of Hamlet — with a cast of dogs
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The National Endowment for the Arts spent $30,000 on a production of “Doggie Hamlet,” which included human actors shouting and chasing dogs and sheep in an open field in New Hampshire.
“Many people view art subjectively, and there are likely many who would enjoy watching this play,” Lankford’s report noted. “However, with $20 trillion in national debt, it is difficult to explain to taxpayers in Oklahoma or Montana – even the people who work with sheep daily – why $30,000 was spent for a few people to run around a field yelling at sheep.”
Designing digital puppets for $74,851
The National Endowment for the Humanities gave $74,851 to a university to use 3-D technology to “scan up to 15 puppets into a system that will enable viewers to control puppet functions and facial expressions either on a desktop computer or virtual reality device,” according to Lankford’s report.
Converting movies from film to digital — at a steep cost
The National Archives used a $100,000 grant to digitize 250 hours of footage from the 1970s at a theater in New York. According to the report, that equals $400 for every hour of film converted to digital records.
“It is within the national interest for the National Archives to preserve documents, photos, and videos of important national, historic events,” the report reads. “However, with a national debt of $20 trillion, it is beyond our national interest to spend federal tax dollars to preserve 250 hours of video at $400 an hour from a New York theater, especially when the theater could very likely tap into its very large number of supporters to fund the project, instead of relying on hard-working American taxpayers.”
Taxpayer-funded summer camp for adults
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The National Endowment for the Arts used taxpayer money to fund a $20,000 summer camp for adult “artists and scientists investigating the issues surrounding climate change,” according to Lankford’s report.
“In July 2017, attendees spent two weeks focused on climate-change communication, which was followed by a two-week session entitled ‘Art, Science, and the Cultural Terrain,'” the report noted.
A trolley renovation for $1.04 billion
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The Department of Transportation awarded $1.04 billion to expand the city of San Diego’s trolley by 10.9 miles, which is about $100 million per mile.
The report claims that the same cost could have been used to build as much as 250 miles of four-lane highways, which would be more frequently used by taxpayers.
Washington, D.C.’s Streetcar
Washington, D.C. has spent more than $200 million for a streetcar along 2.4 miles of the city, which can already be traveled using the bus system. And while the DC Streetcar has a large price tag from taxpayers, it can be ridden for free in the District.
“If a local community wants to upgrade its transportation options, it should be willing to use local money,” Lankford’s report concludes.