Government Waste

Rand Paul: Feds Wasted Millions Subsidizing Serbian Cheese Production

But at least they had enough tax dollars left over to buy a Bob Dylan-made sculpture for the U.S. embassy in Mozambique, and to get zebrafish addicted to nicotine in London.

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You've never seen government cheese like this before.

The federal government spent $22 million last year on a local development grant used, in part, to subsidize the production of Sjenica cheese—a creamy white cheese produced only in the rural highlands of southwest Serbia—with the goal of raising production standards so the cheese can be sold in the European Union and the United States. U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) says the project will help standardize Sjenica cheese production by teaching farmers in the region about the problems created by "questionable practices…such as adding water or baking powder to the milk or skimming the fat."

Professionalizing Serbian cheese production might be a boon to local farmers by opening up export markets for their product, but it's difficult to imagine why American taxpayer dollars should be directed towards that end. That's why the item ended up in the latest edition of Sen. Rand Paul's (R–Ky.) "Waste Report," released Monday.

As Paul's office points out in the report, American taxpayers and dairy farmers have another good reason to be cheesed off about the questionable spending. Right now, America is experiencing something of a cheese crisis. According to the Department of Agriculture, the United States is sitting on 1.4 billion-pound cheese surplus—largely due to an increase in dairy production and a decline in consumption of milk and cheese. The federal government has been buying up excess cheese to bail out dairy farmers—at the same time it is using tax dollars to boost production in the Balkans.

Unfortunately, that's not the only comical way that the federal government wasted money this year.

Also earning scorn in Paul's report is the State Department's decision to buy an $84,000 statue from Bob Dylan—yes, that Bob Dylan—for the U.S. embassy in Mozambique. (Dylanistas may recall that "Mozambique" is a goofy track from his 1975 album Desire.)

But the real problem isn't the weird homage to Dylan. It's the fact that every new U.S. embassy or consulate includes an automatic budget of 0.5 percent of the construction cost for art acquisition—no matter how much that 0.5 percent might be in actual dollars, Paul's report notes—as a way to spread American "soft power" around the globe.

The most outlandish case of wasteful spending included in the new report recalls previous National Institutes of Health (NIH) outrages like the infamous give-cocaine-to-Japanese-quails study, or the study of dangerous behavior at dance clubs.

This time around, the NIH spent $708,000 on a study that got zebrafish addicted to nicotine. The study, conducted in London, examined the link between genetics and addiction. And while that sort of research can certainly have its benefits, it's still pretty unclear why American taxpayers should be paying for it.

"Spending fewer than a million dollars may seem like a 'drop in the bucket' compared to the hundreds of millions and billions the federal government routinely dishes out," Paul's report notes, "but it all adds up to the massive budget deficits and $23 trillion national debt before us today."

NEXT: Ilhan Omar's $1 Trillion Housing Proposal Is an Expensive Joke

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  1. (USAID) says the project will help standardize Sjenica cheese production by teaching farmers in the region about the problems created by “questionable practices…such as adding water or baking powder to the milk or skimming the fat.”

    “But, adding water and baking powder to the milk and skimming the fat *are* standard production!”

    1. So much for “blessed are the cheesemakers.”

      1. We need more cheez whizz!!!

        Because, blessed are the cheese FAKERS!!!!

        1. Shut the fuck up, Rand. These are pennies compared to how much your best friend increased spending over Obama.

          1. If you can’t attack it piecemeal, how you gonna convince people it’s wasteful?

            1. By attacking the big pieces, not the crumbs.

              1. Nope. Low hanging fruit is always first.

              2. Ah, seeking to insure nothing changes. Solid plan.

        2. you tawkin boaut Velveeta…. anyone else remember when USDA ordered Kraft to remove the word “cheese” from the label, because it had a cheese content of ZERO?
          Now it is accurately labelled “pasteurised process food product”. On second thought, they should make them stop calling it “food”.

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  2. Can anyone answer why Rand has taken to supporting trump? My stomach turned watching him pander to trump in various speeches. Its almost like Rand has abandoned us early supporters, and I cant figure out what has happened? Back door deals, secret promise didn’t seem like the type of thing he would do. Also, can we get refunds from campaign donations if the person you rooted for lies and swaps his/her stance? (cough cough (rand))

    1. Maybe he’s adopted the position that it’s better to work with someone and make incremental improvements than it is to stand on the purity of your beliefs and get nothing accomplished? Shorter version – Perfect is the enemy of good enough. Trump may be a dick, but he gets some useful things done, and he doesn’t care if it pisses off Democrats or Republicans. I think Rand can appreciate that, since he’s seemingly had enemies in both camps as well. The guy in your foxhole may be an asshole, but he’s shooting at your enemy too. I’m giving you a metaphor trifecta.

      1. Ummm, at least a quinella…

    2. So, to you, President Trump is a “Know Nothing”, as you support the demoncrats! Right, just waiting for Bern the total commie to be voted in and eliminate fossil fuels and prosecute the creators of civilization. I can see you smiling now.

      1. The fact that the guy sitting in the cell next to Denis “BTK” Rader is Gary “Green River Killer” Ridgeway is no reason to go around claiming Denis is a good guy.

    3. As much as I prefer the ideological purity of Ron Paul… The truth is Rand has probably got more shit done in his few years in office than his dad did in his entire career.

      I’ve disagreed with a few things, but mostly Rand seems to pick his battles reasonably well. The truth is there has never been any time or place in history where perfect ideological purity was going to get anything done in the real world. Dogmatic libertarians would be wise to REALLY let that sink in.

      All of the good Founding Fathers did stuff that was against various principles they believed in… But on the whole they ended up creating the freest and best nation in the history of the world. Had they been purists we would probably still have the queen on our money and be 10x worse off than we are. They compromised on the issues they had with each other and/or the general public to get shit done.

      1. No true libertarian would acknowledge utilitarian pragmatism!

        Bloody splitter!

        1. And that’s the sad truth of it.

          I mean I kind of long for An-Cap world… But at the same time the practical side of me realizes that REASONABLE compromises from absolute freedom are not really ALL THAT BAD. As much as I think 100% private roads might bring lower costs and superior service, it’s not the hill I want to die on, and also I can accept that there’s a value in just wasting more money so that I don’t have to have accounts set up with 138 private toll companies to drive around the city I live in.

          The problem with the modern world is we’ve gone FAR beyond the REASONABLE exceptions to absolute liberty. If this were the America of Thomas Jefferson still I could gladly accept all the things that were going on that were against strict libertarian principles for the most part. Other than slavery of course. But I’m totes cool with nobody but male landowners voting! 🙂

    4. Criminal justice reform, pulling troops from Syria are 2 solid points of agreement. At least Rand has the presidents ear and has some influence with him. In politics that is how you move issues you care about.

    5. I could be wrong but it sounds to me like you have more of an “emotional” reaction to Trump’s personality than having any sort of case to make about his policy.

      I consider Rand Paul, Ted Cruz —- AND yes, even President Trump in the same De-Power the feds camp… So I don’t have any clue where you get your panties in a twist over Rand working with Trump.

  3. You’ve never seen government cheese like this before.

    Tonight’s secret ingredient on Iron Chef…

  4. The most difficult part of the zebrafish study was getting the cigarettes to stay lit under water.

    1. “So what’s the job?”

      “All you have to do is take hits off this vape pen, stick your mouth under the water in this fish tank here, and exhale.”

      1. Later that day….

        “Hey, why aren’t you blowing?”

        “I figured out an easier way. I went and got some nicotine patches and stuck them on the outside of the tank!”

        1. $20 of nicotine patches and a $2-million dollar executive luncheon!!

    2. surely, cautioin must be observed. We shan’t be having any smoked fish, now…..

      1. No, no — It’s all those other flavors getting banned. Nicotine flavored smoked fish is A-OKAY!

  5. Better to subsidize Serbian cheese than American emulsified oil product cheese.

    1. Reminds me of that time where Florida said that raw milk that didn’t have vitamin D added couldn’t be called milk… Whereas ‘American cheese’ is not actually cheese (at least they call it cheese product).

  6. Crocodile tears Rand.

  7. Just so you wankers know, this is also an example of The Deep State.

  8. All the headline needed to say was, “Government wasted millions _____” and anyone could of filled in the blank with literally anything and it’d have been correct.

  9. If I could spend point eight mil or more per day on whatever suited my fancy I could run up a couple trillion in debt in not very long at all. But I, having at least half a dozen scruples lying about somewhere, would likely laugh myself to death thinking about all the losers and suckers who supplied that money to burn.
    Speaking of a Bern, if that guy ascends the throne in a year, we’ll begin burning through more money than anyone ever dreamed possible. We’ll seem like homeless misers as we squeeze our nickels so hard the Indian will end up riding the buffalo. And many will be screaming YAY BERN as we burn through it all.

  10. Actually the Dylan statue doesn’t sound so bad. At least they got a piece of art from a famous person which has some value. I found some pics of what he does. He is into metalwork. Not bad.

    I could see where having a nice looking embassy could be justified to impress the other dignitaries and so on who show up.

    What we get from Serbian cheese makers I have no idea.

    1. That’s actually not a ton of money for a metal work statue, if that’s what it is.

      I once knew a fairly famous bronze artist who made shit that cost A LOT more than that for some of his bigger pieces.

    2. They couldn’t convince Bob Dylan to donate artwork to Mozambique?

      1. Well… He is a Jew 😉

        Sorry, I just had to. We can’t let the SJWs win!

        In all seriousness though, that’s more the kind of thing I would expect from a good libertarian Jew like Murray Rothbard than a self professed leftist like Dylan! He’s a hypocrite and stuff!!!

  11. The zebra fish study also doesn’t sound bad if you accept the idea of government funding for basic research.

    I found this “ Zebrafish are emerging as a powerful animal model for studying the molecular and physiological effects of nicotine exposure. The zebrafish have many advantageous physical characteristics, including small size, high fecundity rates, and externally developing transparent embryos. When combined with a battery of molecular–genetic tools and behavioral assays, these attributes enable studies to be conducted that are not practical using traditional animal models.”

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3145391/#!po=18.0556

    1. The Zebrafish study may well be of value in understanding addiction. I do wonder, though, why it was conducted in London. The US generally funds scientific research only by US institutions. The research may be conducted outside of the US if necessary (e.g. if you want to study Arctic ice, you may have to go to the Arctic) but this sounds like the kind of laboratory research that could easily be conducted in the US.

      1. NIH funds several international collaboration projects-it also could be that one of the scientists is American, but did this project in England because the lab there had special equipment or expertise they needed for the study.

        Whatever they find-there as yet has been no silver bullet for nicotine or any addiction-you can bet that governments will continue to permit the sale of cigarettes because where else will they get the tax money to fund more studies on nicotine addiction?

        1. The libertarian argument, if there is one, for a study like this is that some level of public health is acceptable part of small government.

          This is very basic science looking for effects at the molecular level. It is far from any cure for nicotine addiction. Thing is nobody is going to fund this kind of work if the government does not and you don’t know what may eventually come of it.

          It can still be argued that government grants like this shouldn’t happen at all.

          The review article I linked to was also funded by NIH and written by some folks at the Mayo Clinic.

          You got it right. I don’t think it matters at all where the research took place. If the top zebra fish team is in London that is where you want to put the grant.

          1. The thing with something like “basic research” is the same as it is with a lot of stuff… The reasonable side of me sees a few theoretical upside… And IN THEORY it could be a not horrible idea.

            The problem is how all those “reasonable” things tend to work out in reality. This study doesn’t sound like the biggest waste of time ever, but a lot of the other ones I’ve read of over the years surely were. Or the stuff that’s just ideological bullshit trying to prove post-reality leftist views on stuff.

            With a lot of things a minimal level of government support, implemented in a sane way would be okay… But the devil is ALWAYS in the details. And IRL the details always get fucked, and have their budget explode 100 fold over a couple decades. Therein lies the problem.

    2. Standard model organism study-hundreds of papers published like this every year looking at nicotine, alcohol, and any other pleasurable substance, but never amounts to much. It does keep lots of scientists and support staff employed though

      1. True. However you see that in all areas of science. I think Edison after all of his failures said that he learned” a thousand ways how not to make a light bulb “ It is one of those unsolved questions and the potential for a magic bullet is there.

        We have Chantix and they know how it works on the molecular level however there are serious side effects and a fairly low success level. So there is reason to hope for something better.

        1. I went to grad school for cell bio and worked with worms and yeast, so I am very aware of the value of these studies. I know they also have the potential to produce a lot of garbage, but as you said, that’s how science is.

          Regarding addiction-nicotine certainly is, but, it is not intoxicating and does not cause people to do crazy or destructive things, like alcohol or meth. And it is very difficult to overdose on like opioids or coke. It is still viewed as a public health problem because the only delivery systems for centuries were quite toxic (smoking or chewing). Now much cleaner systems exist that don’t carry the health risks to the user or others, except for addiction itself, which if it does not harm the user or others, should not be considered a health problem, but rather a moral one. But I’ve noticed lately many politicians and media talking about it as though it were meth or heroin.

          1. I’d call it a “social” problem, and the kind of thing the governments legitimately investigate.

            How can I have informed consent if I don’t actually know whether I am at risk of addiction, and I don’t really know what that means until it is too late?

            1. Agree that it’s a legitimate area of research, but the question is how will the findings be used to drive policy? Will people who enjoy nicotine in any form be pressured to take some drug they develop from the research because it’s an addiction and all addictions are bad?

              1. The truth is even the info on old school smoking is presented in a very slanted manner. According to all the big studies they use to show how bad smoking is, it basically showed at under a half a pack a day (10 smokes), the health risks are almost impossible to prove statistically. At 5 or less they literally don’t exist at all.

                In other words the advice should have been “You shouldn’t smoke… But if you do, keep it to 10 smokes a day and you probably won’t have any health issues. 5 would be even better as it has no health repercussions.” Instead they pretend that having 3 cigarettes a day is the same as smoking 3 packs a day… Which has probably cost how many people their lives?

                Lots of people might not be able to (or want to) quit completely, but if they even knew this info might have cut down to 1/2 a pack a day if they knew that was right where there was where the risk level started to be noticeable. Then it gradually goes up as you approach a pack a day, and skyrockets if you smoke more than that.

                Government and do gooders are so incompetent they don’t even do gooder right.

    3. They have been pulling out “zebra fish” as a headline grabbing “crazy waste” accusation for at least 30 years. Proxmire did the exact same thing with his golden fleece award – except it was alcohol rather than nicotine.

      Zebra fish are a standard testing animal for any chemical that you want to control blood concentration – since you just put it in the water at that concentration and it goes right in through the gills. Any time you see a writer or politician holding up “zebra fish” as a silly waste, your very first assumption should be that they are full of crap and have no idea what they are talking about. It has been done so much that it is a trope. Zebra Fish, Fruit Flies, nude mice… there are lots of funny sounding animal models and pols in need of a catchy headline to get writers to cover their story pull them out every time.

      Any one study may or may not be worthwhile, but the fact that these are always trotted out and almost always the “watchdog” turns out to be an idiot should place your bias firmly on the “this story is crap” side.

      1. Hmmm. I agree to an extent, but I think it’s worth noting there’s not much of a libertarian case for government research funding at all, outside of maybe some of the more narrowly focused stuff that DARPA funds for defense purposes. Even that’s mostly indefensible, though (although it is pretty neat).

        1. Prior to WWII, almost all research was privately funded by wealthy families (Rockefeller Foundation), and even a few eccentric tinkerers like Edison. So it’s not like basic research can’t exist without government money.

          1. The thing about “basic research” is that most of it ultimately DOES have practical applications.

            If our taxes were 80% lower, and big companies had that much more money sloshing around… Who thinks private industry wouldn’t be looking into all the trippy shit with nano particles and weird chemical combinations? They sure as hell would be. Ditto for most health related stuff, as if a company were able to discover and keep private for a time ground breaking results on addiction or some other basic health thing, it could make them billions by licensing the data, or coming up with a product based on the info.

    4. Only our government could find an excuse to pay almost $1-Million to study a plant leaf smoldering.

      Oh excuse me; I mean $520-Million/yr (settlement) or whoops I mean $880-Million/yr (prevention) or whoops I mean closer to $1-Trillion/yr since other government agencies like the CDC, ACS pretend to “donate” to the government cause also.

      I studied for ten minutes — Of my 120-listed smoking friends all of which are well over 50 now and lets see (Conclusion: Not a single one dead. Not a single one even treated. Still smoking.)

      It must cost a SH#T-Load of extra money to make lies than it does to study for truth.

      1. It boggles the mind how much of “other people’s labor” people will volunteer to attack things they believe is “too icky to be allowed”…

        Plays right into the $1-Trillions lost trying to make vehicle’s run without combustion fumes.

      2. As I said in a post above, the smoking stats are basically misrepresented.

        In short, being a couple dozen pounds overweight is worse than being a smoker. There are LOTS of fat people in the USA. So being a skinny smoker makes you less likely to die than the guy with a beer belly.

        The health risks drop like a rock at under 20 smokes a day too. By 10 they’re barely statistically relevant, and at much under that there are no detectable risks at all. I was a pack a day smoker when I smoked, but I know LOTS of people who only smoke 5, 10, 15, whatever a day. Those people aren’t likely to have many, if any, health problems from it.

  12. Zebrafish are bedrock of genetic research.

    I am not an expert on how you measure nicotine addiction in a fish, but when it comes to chemical exposure and genetics, zebrafish are an excellent model organism.

    So to the extent that the NIH has a mandate to understand the genetics of health and environmental exposure risks, then this seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

    I thought Reason was the “scientific” political journal.

    1. In a world where 2/3rds of peer reviewed published papers fail replication, why would anyone want to be that?

  13. Is the muller investigation on the list? What about the cost of trumped up (I see what I did there) impeachment hearings?

    1. Those costs are written off under the “Entertainment” deductible.

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