Entry 297: Waste Management

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), being a doctor, is one of the few members of Congress who can help when you go into shock on those rare occasions when Congress actually does something.

He’s also the guy who releases an annual “Wastebook” with examples of wasteful wastebook_custom-b44f0b2c8c260531334f749d3591e82418028eb9-s6-c85[1]government spending.

Among this year’s listings is a YouTube cartoon series produced by NASA for $390,000; $10 million spent by the Army National Guard on a tie-in campaign with the movie “Man of Steel”;  $914,000 spent by the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) since 2010 for the study of romance in popular culture dating back to the ancient Greeks; NASA spending $124,955 on the development of printable pizza; $7 billion to destroy more than 170 million pounds of usable military vehicles and equipment; $200,000 to stimulate wine production in Oklahoma; $577, 006.47 to …

Wait! Back up there. Did I just write the words “printable pizza?”

How the hell could that be on a list of wasteful spending? That’s the most awesomest thing I ever heard of!

According to the report…

Sprayed by a device that works like a typical, household inkjet printer, the 3-D victuals could be composed of dry powders that mix with water or oil. “This mixture is blended and extruded into the desired shape,” says the grant description. Pizza may be the optimal food because “it can be printed in distinct layers, so it only requires the print head to extrude one substance at a time.” Key components of the creation could include “international flavors and fragrances to ensure the production of nutritious and flavorful mission supplies.”

3d-food-printer-1[1]So imagine you’re sitting down to watch the PBS documentary Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle (funded to the tune of $825,000 over three years by the NEH and National Endowment of the Arts), and you decide that nothing goes better with the 75th anniversary of Superman than a freshly-printed pizza. You just switch on your 3-D printer and–VOILA!–you’ve got a piping-hot pie. This would also be great for my poker game, especially if we could also print out some cigars and single malt scotch.

Of course, judging from the 3-D printers I’ve seen, it would probably take about three days to print a pie (four if you want to output pepperoni), which is a day or two longer than it generally takes my local pizzeria to deliver.

But how cool would that be? Not to mention I’d get to order mozzarella toner cartridges from Staples.

To me, the only wasteful thing about this project is that the government paid for it. If they had put something like this up on Kickstarter, it would have been fully-funded faster than the Bureau of Engraving and Printing could toss $3 billion dollars down the drain… literally (well, almost). The Bureau spent $4 million printing 30 million $100 bills that couldn’t be used because too much ink was applied to the paper. The Wastebook didn’t specify how exactly the Bureau would dispose of all that not-quite money, or how much it would cost to do so, but I figure down the drain is as good an option as any, and would make for a much better headline than, say, lining six million birdcages (I’m thinking five bills to a cage).

There was one other listing in Coburn’s Waste Book that caught my eye. Evidently, the National Institutes for Health spent $325,525 on a study which found that “wives would find marriage more satisfying if they could calm down faster during arguments with their husbands.”

I hope they release the results of that study before the Department of Defense is finished spending its $7 billion destroying its military equipment. Because when the NIH tells our wives to “just calm down,” we’ll probably need a tank or two.

Also, I think they’ll want to make sure next year’s budget has some cash available for jewelry.

See you soon.

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