Did you hear the joke about the nudists that went skinny-dipping in Antarctica? Here’s the punch line: they did it on your dime.
And what about the one that goes, “Who spent $315,000 studying the correlation between playing FarmVille on Facebook and maintaining adult relationships?” Give up? You did!
A recent paper published by Senator Tom Coburn (Rep-Oklahoma) has revealed that the National Science Foundation (NSF) has spent more than $3 billion—nearly half of their annual budget—on things as frivolous as South Pole Jell-O wrestling at the McMurdo research station and studying the immunity of shrimp. Taxpayers forked over more than half a million dollars on that one, which went towards the design and construction of special exercise machines—treadmills—for those itty-bitty, creepy crustaceans.
And the result? Sick shrimps do not “perform as well and did not recover as well from exercise as healthy shrimp,” writes Senator Coburn.
Groundbreaking, right? As one researcher says in the report, however, the experiment marked “the first time that shrimp have been exercised on a treadmill.” Clearly worth the 500 grand that came out of the collective pockets of Americans.
In his 73-page report, Coburn writes, “There is little, if any, obvious scientific benefit to some NSF projects, such as a YouTube rap video, a review of event ticket prices on stubhub.com, a ‘robot hoedown and rodeo’ or a virtual recreation of the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair.” One of the videos in question, a clip called “Money 4 Drugz” made by the UW Department of Medicine, has garnered a meager 3,000 views since it was uploaded to YouTube in January. That clip, along with a song titled “Making Biogas Is A Gas, Gas, Gas,” were made with $50,000 that came from the NSF.
Responding to the report to the Washington Times, Dana Topousis of the NSG says, “While no agency is without flaws, NSF has been diligent about addressing concerns from members of Congress about workforce and grant management issues, and NSF’s excellent record of tracking down waste and prosecuting wrongdoing is apparent from Senator Coburn’s report.”
“We believe that no other funding agency in the world comes close to NSF for giving taxpayers the best return on their investment,” she adds. Before you get upset, make sure you’re aware of all of the benefits you will reap with your tax dollars. There is the $1.5 million spent developing a robot that can fold laundry, $58,000 so a senior executive could download porn at work and $1 million analyzing how quickly parents respond to trendy baby names.
If that ruffles your feathers, this should smooth things out. One employee was, in fact, fired after the NSF found out about the Jell-O wrestling. In his defense, the unnamed NSF worker notes the “polar bear plunge” naked swimming that took place that same weekend, saying “it had plenty of nudity but no one got fired or reprimanded for doing that.”
So the next time you got peeved over how the government is spending your tax money, make sure you pause for a sec, think about the future and tell yourself, “It’s okay. Someday I’ll have a robot doing my laundry.”