Lankford Announces Volume 7 of his Waste Book, Federal Fumbles
CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s remarks on YouTube.
CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s remarks on Rumble.
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today introduced the Senate to the latest edition of his government waste book: Federal Fumbles: Ways the Federal Government Dropped the Ball. In volume 7 of the book, Lankford outlines numerous examples of waste and head-scratching spending the government has undertaken. In total, Fumbles highlights almost half-a-trillion dollars in misspent federal money on wine trails in Napa Valley, the effect of climate change on driving conditions in Ghana, and preserving a secret French butcher language.
Debt is front and center in the national conversation again. It’s entirely reasonable. We have a debt ceiling conversation right now about America taking care of our debts and our responsibilities, which we are a responsible nation, we’re going to do. But we should also have a grown-up conversation about our spending, to say: are we spending on our priorities, because when you have $31 trillion—actually let me scratch that—$31.4 trillion because $400 billion is not a rounding error, $31.4 trillion in total national debt, we should pay attention to this especially when we’re currently adding $1 trillion in new debt every single year, and it continues to accelerate.
Recently someone asked me: when does it get hard? When do we pass the point? And I actually had to painfully say to them: 10 years ago, because in the last 10 years our debts continued to accelerate like a rock rolling downhill, and it’s going to be harder to manage this. And at some point, we’ve got to be able to stop and say inflation’s going up, the challenges that are in our economy are increasing, we’re spending almost as much on interest as we are on defense. At what point do we stop and say: we’ve got to be able to fix this?
Well, I have a perspective. The first step on actually talking about debt and deficit is taking it seriously and saying: what are we spending on that’s a priority and what are we spending on that’s not a priority? Again, it’s not unreasonable to be able to say that’d be nice to do, but we don’t have the money to do that. Let’s set that aside. And for whatever reason in this town, any time you talk about reducing spending of whatever percentage or whatever amount, everyone freaks out immediately like ‘Oh you can’t. There is no way you can reduce spending in government.”
So, we started seven years ago a habit of our staff, that we produce a book called Federal Fumbles. Every we are we put out the Federal Fumbles guide, and that’s just a set of ideas to say these are areas that we believe the federal government’s dropped the ball, that the federal government and our agencies, we had a responsibility to handle American taxpayer dollars prudently and wisely, but that didn’t happen.
So we ask the question: is this really what we need to spend for? In a nation that’s keeping up with our infrastructure, of our national defense, of education, of so many different expenses, and things that are truly governmental, we ask the simple question: with $31.4 trillion in total debt, is that what we need to spend our dollars on?
Now just to set context because again this is difficult to be able to do, when you talk about millions and billions and trillions, it gets easy to go, ‘Those all sound alike, so they’re similar.’ And so people throw out millions of dollars or billions of dollars or trillions of dollars, and you just think, ‘Okay, I don’t even understand what this is anymore.’ So I break it down as I have in the past. I break it down to seconds because that’s something I can understand.
A million seconds is 12 days—12 days. That’s a million seconds. A billion seconds is 32 years. Okay? So there’s a big difference between a million and a billion. 12 days and 32 years. A trillion seconds is almost 32,000 years.
So let me knock that past us again. A million seconds is 12 days. A billion seconds: 32 years. A trillion seconds, almost 32,000 years. And to put this into the context of $31.4 trillion in total debt, that is 995,000 years, almost a million years of seconds to get to $31.4 trillion.
The numbers here are large, and they’re overwhelming. So, again, why don’t we talk about ways that we can actually save money. In my reasonable conversation with Federal Fumbles every year, is just to say let’s talk about it. Is this really how we want to be able to spend Americans’ taxpayer dollars?
We’ve set up a top 10 list that we listed out some of the things that we just say, okay, of the 50 different examples, we don’t try to go into every spending area but lay out in the guide 50 different examples and ask the question: is this the best way to spend Americans’ dollars? And again we’ve all got different perspectives on it. I’m just asking the question.
For instance, last year the State Department did a grant to Ecuador to host 12 drag shows in Ecuador with American tax dollars. Now you may have different opinions in this room on drag shows. I’m just asking the simple question: is the best use of American tax dollars to actually fund drag shows in Ecuador with US tax dollars? I don’t believe that it is.
Last year, we actually did a different funding through the State Department that was… actually this was the National Science Foundation. Excuse me, strike that. It seems like a State Department thing. The National Science Foundation last year did a study of butterflies in Europe. So we funded with American taxpayer dollars a butterfly study in Germany where we paid a Swedish scientist to study butterflies in Germany. I’m not real sure why American tax dollars, that was the best use of that, but that was one of the grants done last year.
Last year there was an NEA grant that was done to set up a display in Brooklyn for the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which by the way is not even an American band, and I’m not sure why we had to pay federal tax dollars to be able to do that. My simple question as always: why are tax dollars being taken out of Oklahoma to be able to do that?
Always popular, we had an almost, well, $350,000 grant to study smart toilets was one of the grants that we actually paid for with our federal tax dollars last year.
We also had a grant that was done studying colonial Mexican soundscapes. Now I’m sure colonial Mexican soundscapes are fascinating, but we paid for a researcher to travel to Mexico and then to be able to write a series about the sounds of colonial Mexico and how they could be used to be able to influence communities.
We, last year did a study on helmets and seat belts in Ghana to be able to study whether seat belts and helmets were effective for saving lives in Ghana. Can I just go ahead and answer that question for free? Seat belts and helmets are a good idea. They save lives. Free, I can go ahead and give you that advice. How do you know that? Because we’ve already spent millions of dollars in other studies here in the United States, but instead we spent money in Ghana studying helmets to see if they’re actually a good idea there, and amazingly they discovered, yes, they are.
There was also a grant that was done last year—I’ve got to just walk this one through. This was at the Springfield Museum of Art in Missouri. There was a grant on a display, an installation, an exhibit in a museum called Yoko Ono Mends Peace. Now let me just read this to you. It’s a simple white room where shattered cups and saucers are placed on a table, and participants are asked to mend the fragments together using common household items like twine, glue, scissors and tape, and the resulting works are displayed on nearby shelves as evidence of the power of collective action. Again, I’m not opposed to fixing broken saucers in a public place and displaying them. All I’m asking is why did Oklahomans work overtime last year to pay their tax bill to fund doing the Yoko Ono white room where people fixed broken saucers? I don’t have a good answer for that yet by the way. I’m still trying to be able to get that.
If you like wine country, great, you helped pay for it. One of the highest-income areas in the world is Napa Valley, California—one of the highest income areas in the entire world. The good folks of Oklahoma helped pay for a wine pedestrian trail through Napa Valley, because apparently Napa Valley didn’t have enough cash to be able to pay for the eight-mile walking trail through wine country, some of the most expensive real estate in the entire world. So the taxpayers in Oklahoma had to pay for that wine country tour trail.
If you like traveling to Hawaii, enjoy the trip. When you get there, if you go to a farmer’s market, you’ll find out that you helped pay for that farmer’s market because the farmer’s market paid $3.4 million to be able to fund the farmer’s market.
If you go to New York City and pay for a very high-dollar ticket to get into a private location in the Metropolitan Opera to be able to watch the opera. You will feel safer, I’m sure, when you go to the Metropolitan Opera because almost three-quarters of a million dollars was given to the Metropolitan Opera in New York to help them install a new fire suppression system with federal tax dollars.
If you like traveling to Paris and you go to a butcher shop in Paris, you may be fascinated to know since the 13th century, apparently butchers in Paris have come up with their own private language. It’s like a super, secret private language in Paris. Fascinating for the French is study, but unfortunately, the Americans taxpayers paid for a study of French butchers’ private language for fear that it is diminishing and fading away. So the American tax dollars paid for this study in France to study the secret language of butchers in Paris. Can’t tell you why.
You may know the story of the—let me see if I can pull this out—the Parable of the Sower. It’s a very famous, biblical story, the Parable of the Sower. Well, this particular version of the Parable of the Sower was actually little bit different. What your tax dollars paid for is actually an event that was done to teach climate futurism and to be able to use the Parable of the Sower from the Bible but to reteach a new religion called Earthseed using the biblical story of the Parable of the Sower in talking about humanity’s destiny to be able to leave Earth for other planets. It wasn’t the writing of the book. It was a conference for teachers to make sure teachers know how to teach this new version of the Parable of the Sower and about the new religion of Earthseed to their kids. That was done with your tax dollars.
Not leaving Ghana alone, there was also a study done in Ghana last year, not only did we do one on seat belt and helmet studies in Ghana, we did an interview project that was almost $200,000 in Ghana to interview taxicab drivers and truck drivers to ask them about how difficult driving has become with climate change, if it’s harder to drive now in Ghana because of climate change. Your tax dollars paid for that.
And if you don’t like that I’m discussing anything on climate change, and you may disagree with that, well, perfect because there was also a fund done with your tax dollars and the National Science Foundation to study on how to influence people that disagree with the issue of climate change with a study that was done for $400,000 on ‘pluralistic ignorance gaps in climate change’ and to be able to determine how to speak to people as the study says who are ‘ignorant’ on climate change and to be able to reeducate them on that. So if you disagree on this issue, we are studying on how to reeducate you on this issue.
Last year we also spent $991 million on ‘soft-sided facilities,’ those are called tents, along our border in Mexico. Now, best estimates on this. There’s about two million people illegally crossed the border last year. So if you run the numbers on it, we spent somewhere around $500 a person on the tent facility they were processed through just to travel across the border.
Listen, we’ve got differences of opinion on lots of issues. I’m respectful of that. I understand that the people of Oklahoma don’t think like people in other areas of the country. I also understand not everybody in Oklahoma thinks the same way. And I’m respectful of that. But I have yet to find anyone that wants their tax dollars wasted.
People literally work overtime to be table to feed their families. They’re working two or three jobs, and in April, when they pay their taxes, they want it to go to roads and infrastructure and national security. And what we reveal in Federal Fumbles is, yeah, some of that was done, but also some of that was also done because we lacked oversight and things were wasted and thrown out the door.
We did a multi-thousand page omnibus bill at the end of last year that literally no one had read—no one. There were no committee hearings in the Senate on appropriations at all last year, and trillions of dollars were spent and no one knows what they were spent for.
We try to bring: here’s some of the ways that Americans’ taxpayer dollars are spent. And I’m not just complaining about it. We bring this up to say: what are we going to do about it? Are we going to do more oversight and to ask more questions and to spend money on what’s our priorities and to not spend money on what’s not. So we put out Federal Fumbles, and you can go to the website, Lankford.senate.gov, and be able to download it and be able to look at it. But the goal of this is to get all of us thinking about $31.4 trillion in federal debt. Can we focus on spending on priorities and target areas that are not.