The feds spent $200,000 to study how 800-year-old fish bones influenced Tanzanian social status

This study is criticized in a 152-page report.
(Image credit: iStock)

The federal government spent $200,000 to study how 800-year-old fish bones influenced Tanzanian social status. It also spent $2 million on a research effort that revealed, among other things, that children prefer to be rich rather than poor and like to eat food that no one has sneezed on. Oh, and $495,000 went to creating a museum exhibit where visitors will experience the sights, sounds, and even smells of the Middle Ages, which is surely one detail we would prefer to leave in the past.

All these and 97 more frustrating, confusing, and often comical examples of wasteful federal spending are detailed in a new report from Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), his second annual catalogue of "Federal Fumbles: 100 ways the government dropped the ball," which together amount to $247 billion in mismanaged or unnecessary federal spending. The national debt sits at about $19 trillion.

Lankford's argument isn't that these studies should not be done but simply that Washington need not foot the bill. He highlights, for example, the fact that the mission of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the agency that funded the fish bone study, ostensibly is "to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare" — and that emphasis is Lankford's. "It is difficult to determine, and NSF does not explain, how studying the remains of food consumed 800 years ago in a city on the other side of the planet accomplishes that objective," the report dryly comments.

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