It’s becoming a tradition for Sen. Tom Coburn: The annual “Waste Book.” Every year since 2010, the Oklahoma Republican has issued his blistering report highlighting the most 100 most egregious abuses of taxpayer dollars. This year, Coburn and his research team highlighted examples totaling $17.9 billion and ABC News got an exclusive first look.
For example, chances are when you think “nonprofit,” you don’t think of the National Football League, the National Hockey League, or the Professional Golfers’ Association. However, each of these sport’s associations avoids paying tens of millions of dollars each year in taxes because they classify themselves as such.
The NFL loophole is Exhibit A in Coburn’s new report on government waste, which points out that the NFL alone pulled in more than $9 billion last year and paid Commissioner Roger Goodell more than $11 million.
“We have some of the biggest corporations in America paying no taxes whatsoever,” Coburn told ABC News today. “You know something is wrong with the [tax] code.”
Next up, the $325,000 squirrel robot. Researchers at San Diego State University and University of California, Davis, spent a portion of their National Science Foundation Grant making sure a robotic squirrel looks so real it can fool a rattlesnake.
And then there’s No. 6, which the report labels “Out-of-this-world Martian food tasting.” NASA is spending nearly $1 million a year researching food for astronauts to eat on Mars, despite the fact it has no plans for a manned mission to the red planet.
The Lake Murray State Park airport in Carter, Okla., receives $150,000 a year from the FAA, despite providing a runway for just one flight a month. Oklahoma’s Aeronautics Commission which spends less than 1 percent of that funding on the Lake Murray airport itself, admits it keeps the scarcely used airport open to funnel the money to other airports and projects.
“Is there anybody in the world who would say ‘No thanks government! We don’t want this money?’” OAC Commissioner Wes Stucky told ABC News.
Coburn, for his part, points to a government system that he says encourages waste.
“We put that [example] in there to show people how stupid the federal government is,” Coburn said. “We have a system that says you can collect money because you have an airport open even though nobody uses it so you can collect money to spend on other airports. Why wouldn’t we have a smarter system?”
Coburn says his report is proof that Congress, despite all the talk about government spending and the fiscal cliff, is still wasting as much money as ever.
“Every family in America has been struggling for the last three or four years and they’ve made hard choices. Congress refuses to make the hard choices,” Coburn said.
And so with no major accomplishments this year and a trillion dollar deficit, the Waste Book in fact lists Congress itself as waste of money.