When taxpayers hear the term "pork barrel spending" they think of ridiculous projects getting an earmark from appropriations secured by their elected representative in the congress. Yes, if you read only the briefest descriptions of these earmarks you might think it's all a big waste of your tax dollars. After all, do we really need to be spending money on researching yoga and condoms when every state in the country is running deficits and the federal government's level debt is out of control?
If we go by the brief summary descriptions of many of these projects then the answer would probably be "yes." The problem is that many of these "silly-sounding" projects are actually important studies that lead to medical breakthroughs. This in turns leads to advanced medical techniques and technologies, or just a better understanding of how certain diseases and medical conditions can affect human beings.
Scientists heading up many of these alleged pork barrel spending projects say that the Republicans’ attacks based on a paragraph's worth of information is wrong-headed and disingenuous. Further, they add that the media and blogs who support certain views are taking what politicians say about these projects at face value. Meanwhile, no one - including politicians and the media - have bothered to ask any of the scientists and researchers anything about any of these projects.
House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) seems to be at the forefront of pointing out projects with "silly names" that should be defunded and shut down. Last week he proposed defunding many in amendments to the lower chamber's budget bill. He was unsuccessful, but his action certainly caught the attention of scientists heading up some of these projects.
One project in particular that caught my eye was a National Science Foundation examination of whether video games can improve mental health among the elderly. A spokesperson for the NSF said the word "video game" was probably what caught Issa's eye.
"The word 'videogame' makes it sound silly and for children," Lily Whiteman, a spokeswoman for the National Science Foundation said, adding that the NSF's research could aid "millions of Alzheimer's patients.” She also pointed out that no one from Issa's office or the media contacted her office about the research.
Other scientists see Issa's efforts to trim fat from the federal budget as grandstanding and point out that projects that get defunded waste money already spent on research and cost people jobs. In other words, the tax payers' money gets wasted anyway.
Source: Huffington Post