NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Your Tax Dollars Paid for Swedish Massages for Rabbits

October 23, 2014

Unbelievably, the federal government spent $387,000 to give Swedish massages to rabbits, $856,000 to teach mountain lions to use treadmills and $307,524 to study whether sea monkeys can be trained to swim. And those are just three projects of $25 billion in wasteful Washington spending identified by Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) in his annual Wastebook report.

According to Coburn, Congress passed fewer laws during the last two years than any other Congress in at least the last 50 years -- but that did not stop lawmakers from spending. His report on government waste is filled with head-scratching spending anecdotes of dollars that never should have been spent:

  • The National Institutes of Health has complained that a lack of funding has prevented the development of an Ebola vaccine, yet the agency is the same one that funded the study for Swedish massages for rabbits.
  • NASA is currently paying Russia to transport passengers to the International Space Station (ISS), at a cost of $70 million per passenger, because it has retired the space shuttle. At the ISS -- where research costs American taxpayers $1.5 million per hour -- scientists are conducting studies on how to design a better golf club.
  • Budget cuts have led the Coast Guard to reduce drug and migrant interdictions, yet it has continued its "party patrols" - keeping the general public away from private events on yachts and beaches. The cost? At least $100,000 in New York alone.
  • $371,026 was spent to study whether mothers love their dogs as much as they love their own children.

It is the classic example, writes Coburn, of the incentives associated with spending someone else's money -- efficiency, discretion and prudence disappear.

Coburn's research into government waste did frighten some agencies into limiting their purchases; when his office called the State Department to ask about a life-size, inflatable foosball game that the department had ordered in September, it cancelled the purchase.


Source: "Wastebook 2014: What Washington doesn't want you to read," Office of Senator Tom Coburn, October 22, 2014.


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