Republicans Inject ‘Video Games’ Into the Political Discourse on Sequestration

As Republicans and Democrats publically spar over sequestration, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has decided to throw "wasteful spending" into the mix by mentioning research on smoking machines, a free cell phone program, and even the use of video games for research on the elderly into the national conversation (here is a great explanation of what 'sequester' means, if you are interested).

Boehner said yesterday that Republicans could not accept any new spending because there are still too many wasteful government programs in the budget.

"No one should be talking about raising taxes when the government is still paying people to play videogames, giving folks free cellphones, and buying $47,000 cigarette-smoking machines," he said yesterday.

His Republicans colleagues agree, and are parroting much of what the Speaker said about cell-phones, video-games, and smoking-machines today.

"As long as wasteful programs like this exist, it's going to be hard to convince people I represent that we have a revenue problem," said Representative Martha Roby (R-Alabama).

But a closer look at these programs might give some clarity to the argument – whether you agree or disagree.

"VA Researchers are using the smoking machine to cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in mice by the same mechanisms by which the disease occurs in Veterans and others who smoke cigarettes," a VA official told the Huffington Post in an email.

"The cessation of smoking does not curtail the progression of the disease and there is currently no effective therapy for the treatment of the condition," the official said. "Using this mouse model of COPD, VA researchers will test potential new treatments for the disease."

The video game the Speaker is referring to was called out earlier in the week by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia). It relates to a study at North Carolina State University on the benefits of seniors ages 60 – 77 who spent two weeks playing the popular online game World of Warcraft and was funded by a $1.2 million federal grant from the National Science Foundation, according to Cantor (it turns out that it was supported by a grant from the North Carolina State University Faculty Research and Professional Development fund, and not the NSF). The study was designed to test the hypothesis that some cognitive loss that occurs at an old age can be slowed through certain video games.

The free cell phone program gives phones to the poor, which includes 250 free minutes a month.

One man's pork is another man's important research or lifeline to technology they cannot afford.

Perhaps Republicans and Democrats should stop grandstanding and get to work on passing a reasonable budget instead of wasting time cherry picking spending they think has no merit or is wasteful. It's just a thought considering the current situation, which everyone claims is "dire."

Source: NY Mag


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  1. 0
    Neeneko says:

    Defacto trumps dejure.  We have 200 years of caselaw that has built up to supporting the current  structure of federal spending.

    Setting that aside, you would not have the video game freedoms you have today if the fed was doing so much social spending.

  2. 0
    Infophile says:

    If you get rid of every single thing like this, you'll make no more than a small dent in the national budget. If you want to decrease expenses by half, then by shear necessity you'll have to touch one of the big three Ms: Medicare, Medicaid, and Military. Those three components alone comprise the majority of the government's spending, and the only way to solve the debt crisis through spending cuts alone is to cut into one of those, which is political suicide in the current climate. So they grandstand over the remainder of the budget to make it look like they're trying to cut spending, even though it can never be enough without cutting one of the three Ms.

  3. 0
    E. Zachary Knight says:

    I don't see anything in the Constitution that authorizes Congress to pay for any of that. So I completely agree. Drop those programs and enough other programs to reduce our current spending levels by half. 

    Oh and before anyone pipes in with "But if the Federal Government doesn't fund this stuff who will?", I will defer you to the 10th Amendment to the Constitution:

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    So there you have it. If you want those things funded, pay for it yourself, or lobby your State government for it.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  4. 0
    Macknzie says:

    First, Zachary, there is a clause of the U.S. Constitution that permits Congress to pay for all of that. It's the Taxing and Spending Clause, art. 1, s. 8, clause 1: Congress may "lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States." Whether the spending referred to is wise as a matter of policy is a valid subject of debate, but constitutional arguments are specious.

    Second, no federal money was spent to pay anyone to play World of Warcraft. There was a pilot study using World of Warcraft that used non-federal funds, and the results were used to support a federal grant that funded a follow-up study. That second study measured cognitive effects of a Wii game in seniors, but even then, the amount that was used to pay the subjects was minimal. For more, see

    Other studies mentioned in tweets are similarly misrepresented.

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