Lawmakers are always looking for bipartisan solutions to cut down on the country's deficit. A new report reveals Congress need not look any further than brothels and people paid to lay in bed.
In a year plagued with bitter partisan divides and tense budget fighting, it's hard to believe anyone in Congress would justify the need for a 3-D pizza printer.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., the debt-busting fiscal hawk is out again with his annual "Wastebook," a portrait of Washington's dysfunction and overspending.
"When it comes to spending your money, those in Washington tend to see no waste, speak no waste, and cut no waste," Coburn said in the report.
Here are some of the government's most egregious purchases:
Tax Breaks for Hookers
Nevada is the only state where prostitution is legal and it is a big ol' enterprise. So it's no wonder that the prostitution industry has slipped its way into the U.S. tax code. The legally operating brothels in Nevada are allowed to deduct standard business expenses like "salaries and wages of prostitutes, rent, utilities and licenses." According to Coburn's report they are even allowed to deduct more tawdry expenses like "[B]reast implants and ...costumes."
The pimped out tax code allows the 19 remaining legal brothels in Nevada to get about $17.5 million in tax breaks. The industry is estimated to rake in $50 million a year even though brothels only legally operate in 10 counties.
In order to stop brothels from getting their deductions, Congress would have to vote to explicitly ban them in the tax code.
Pillownauts and Printed Out Pizzas
NASA is spending $360,000 to pay 20 people to be in bed for 70 days. NASA's Countermeasure and Functional Testing study is meant to help NASA access the effects of long-term space travel on astronauts (think Mars). This isn't the first time NASA has conducted this research. The space agency has doled out money to participants since the 1960s to lay in bed with their "body slightly tilted downward."
Coburn argues the program is a worthless investment considering NASA has no astronaut missions on the schedule in the near future.
"Perhaps the agency might get [to Mars] sooner if it prioritized paying rocket scientists and engineers rather than people to just lie around."
The agency also spent nearly $125,000 constructing a 3-D printer that could create pizzas in case astronauts in space feel the craving and cannot give Domino's a call.
Futurism for the United States Postal Service
The post office isn't funded by the federal government, but they've relied on Uncle Sam for the occasional bailout. According to Coburn's "Wastebook", they also have leaned on futurist Faith Popcorn to give them a better idea of how to engineer their business for the future. The cash-strapped postal service, which admits to losing $25 million a day, doled out more than $500,000 to study how stamps might fit into the future as more and more Americans communicate over the Internet and pay their bills online. The consulting firm's mission is to "chart the trends that will shape your business during the next two decades."
Thousands on studies
When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pulled the trigger on the so-called nuclear option and changed the rules so Republicans could no longer block the Obama administration's nominees and judge appointments, Republicans were outraged and political scientists raced to get out polls on what voters thought of the reform.
Since the 1930s, poll after poll has found that Americans aren't all that interested in whether the Senate reforms the filibuster, a tool at the minority party's disposal to stop legislation and before November, stop presidential nominees. A Quinnipiac University poll found in November that there was "no groundswell of support for changing the filibuster rules." Yet, the National Science Foundation gave $251,525 to researchers at Washington University in St. Louis to find out how Americans felt about the procedural overhaul. The results of the study will be published in a textbook "on congressional politics."
"It is difficult to justify funding this politically motivated project while cutting off federal support for hundreds of scientific proposals," Coburn said in his "Wastebook."
The National Institutes of Health also spent $325,000 on a study to see how women can feel more fulfilled in a marriage. The answer is that women simply need to "calm down faster during arguments with their husbands."
"Uncle Sam Looking for Romance"
It's no secret finding and understanding love in a tech-obsessed world can be tricky, but it hardly requires a federal government solution. According to Coburn, the National Endowment of the Humanities has dished out $914,000 to the Popular Romance Project since 2010. The project explores the way movies, music and literature portray love. According to Popular Romance's website the money went to "develop and expand the website—including hundreds of new video interviews and blog posts, games that explore branding and marketing and archival materials—as well as a mobile version."
The National Endowment of the Humanities isn't the only federal government entity engaged with the group, however. The Library of Congress Center for the Book will sponsor a panel on the state of the romance novel with the Popular Romance Project just in time for Valentine's Day 2015. Recent issues discussed on the website include what motivates someone to be "Team Edward or Team Jacob" and what Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" tells us about the state of dating in the 21st century.