Mark Strauss debunks some serious right wing, anti government, anti science, nonsense.
Over the last five years, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has published an annual Wastebook, documenting what he considers the 100 most wasteful federal projects. This year he got a lot of media mileage by ridiculing several science grants—which, in fact, were among the cheapest and most worthwhile projects on his hit list.
Coburn and his staff spend time every year ferreting out which research projects will sound the most ludicrous. Their descriptions include enough accurate information so that they can’t be characterized as lies.
But they leave out so many facts that they can’t be characterized as truth, either.
Nonetheless, media outlets got a good laugh by parroting the talking points, without putting any effort into looking at whether any of these projects were more than they seemed. Coburn’s Wastebook often didn’t provide any specific critiques, beyond bad puns about government waste.
Normally, I’d shrug it off as just more spin. But, the Wastebook got a lot of publicity at a time when Congressional Republicans have made science grants the scapegoats for out-of-control government spending—when, in fact, they represent barely a fraction of the billions of dollars spent on projects that actually need oversight.
So, here are some fixes in the Wastebook, by providing actual information on three of the science grants that got a lot of attention.