A government-funded study showing that sugar makes tomatoes tasty was crowned 2017’s most wasteful use of tax dollars, an accountability group announced Friday.
Pursuit – a nonprofit former Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn founded – started its bracket-style Tournament of Government Waste Monday, where readers could vote to decide which use of taxpayer money was the most wasteful. The competition weighed four findings Coburn and three senators reported on.
A study Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul uncovered ultimately took the crown.
The National Science Foundation spent more than $1.5 million to improve tomatoes’ taste and found that modern tomatoes don’t taste as good because they have less sugar, according to a report the Kentucky Republican released in March 2017.
A NASA program that spent $1.1 million to prepare religious groups for the discovery of alien life came in second. Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, reported on the program in January 2017.
Two of Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford’s submissions ended in the quarter finals. One was a $30,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant for a performance of Hamlet where people yelled and ran at sheep and dogs, and the other was a $1 billion Department of Transportation award to a nearly 11-mile trolley that serves less than 25,000 people per day.
The Tournament of Government Waste matters because the “national debt is over $20 trillion, we have over $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities and hundreds of failing and duplicative government programs that will burden future generations,” Pursuit’s website said.
“Building consensus on areas like waste, fraud, and duplication can be a great starting point for bigger reforms,” it continued. “Not only is this tournament fun and informative, but also promotes conversation on what our country’s priorities should be.”