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