While the Senate debates the bipartisan budget plan, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a longtime deficit hawk, outlines his annual Wastebook which points a critical finger at billions of dollars in questionable government spending,  Dec. 17, 2013.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

‘Wastebook’ finds $297M megablimp, pizza printer, and more


Republican Sen. Tom Coburn’s quirky Wastebook is out again, detailing $30 billion in government spending the Oklahoma senator deems wasteful.

The annual report illustrates Coburn’s uber-conservative fiscal policy—the senator famously opposed aid to his tornado stricken state earlier this year unless it could be offset by cuts elsewhere—with photos and kitschy clip-art.

“Do each of these represent a real national priority that should be spared from budget cuts or are these excesses that should have been eliminated in order to spare deeper cuts to those services and missions that should be performed by the federal government?” Coburn asks in the introduction of the Wastebook.

The report comes on the heels of a budget deal that has been criticized for cutting military pension benefits and unemployment benefits.

“We’ve got a four trillion budget every year and the only place these people can find to cut spending comes from military retirees?” Joe Scarborough said on Morning Joe. “And their the only people whose benefits we can cut? I’m sorry, that’s just obscene.”

The Wastebook highlights what Coburn deems to be 100 particularly egregious and wasteful items funded by the government; it includes everything from the predictable complaints against the millions spent promoting and building the botched healthcare.gov site to some seriously bizarre expenditures.

“With nearly half-a-billion dollars in government funding put behind promoting a product relatively few people seem interested in purchasing from a website that doesn’t work,” the Wastebook writes. “Obamacare is perhaps the biggest marketing flop since Coca-Cola introduced the world to “New Coke” in 1985.”

It also attacks the 16-day government shutdown, which Coburn estimates cost the country $400 million for federal employees who were prohibited from working during the shutdown but did later receive back-pay when the government was reopened.

“Again, it is not the fault of these civil servants that Congress did not do its job and, like everyone else, they have bills to pay,” Coburn writes. “But it is truly unfair to charge billions of dollars to pay others not to work to taxpayers working to cover their own bills and the bills of the government.”

But perhaps the most popular part of Coburn’s annual release is a highlight reel of the most ridiculous things taxpayer dollars are spent on, like the $914,000 the National Endowement of the Humanities spent on exploring romance in popular culture and building a website about it.

Other notable expenditures according to the Wastebook?

  • $704,198 on gardening and landscaping services at the 28-acre Brussels home of the U.S. Ambassador to NATO
  • $124,955 on a 3-D pizza printer for NASA
  • $297 million on the development of a megablimp for the army that was abandoned after its maiden voyage (over New Jersey) and then sold the blimp back to the contractor who built it for $301,000
  • $1.5 million for the FBI to consult Hollywood producers on how to accurately depict the agency
  • $630,000 for the State Department to buy “likes” on Facebook
  • $500 million for the USDA to subsidize Hawaii beachfront homes, though the program is meant to aid rural areas, according to Coburn

Morning Joe , 12/18/13, 7:01 AM ET

Joe: Military pension cuts are 'obscene'

Top Talkers: The Senate is expected to vote on the Ryan-Murray budget today, and some GOP members, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte, are opposed to a portion of the bill that would cut retirement benefits for military retirees by $6B over 10 years.

Budget, Budget Policy and Tom Coburn

'Wastebook' finds $297M megablimp, pizza printer, and more