Local Editorials

New ‘award’ targets waste

Imagine that you have been given a list of three questionable government-funded projects, and they want you to pick the most wasteful one. Your choices are:

1) A $998,000 grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for signs with poetry in zoos;

2) A $615,000 grant to build a Grateful Dead archive; and

3) A $456,000 grant by the National Science Foundation to Stanford University for a study of online dating and why political figures were vague on social networking sites.

If you chose the $998,000 poetry grant for zoos, congratulations. You agree with 63 percent of “Wastebook on Facebook” voters who awarded it the first Silver Fleece Award.

The dubious honor, created by U.S. Sens. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is modeled after legendary U.S. Sen. William Proxmire’s Golden Fleece Award of the 1970s and ’80s. Proxmire, of Wisconsin, railed against government waste and pointed out, with delight and disdain, project after project that fleeced unwitting taxpayers.

The next three nominees have been posted online: a $460,000 grant for the National Science Foundation to investigate why people lie in text messages; a $150,000 grant for Monkton, Vt., to put up “critter crossing” signs that warn drivers not to run over salamanders, frogs and other amphibians; and a $508,253 grant from the National Science Foundation to the Minnesota Zoo to create a video game called WolfQuest.

Which will win the next Silver Fleece Award? It’s up to the public.

We hope Kirk’s program won’t be used to ridicule organizations that request grants. Its goal instead should be to skewer excessive spending by government and put an end to it.

If handing out mock awards was all that Kirk was doing, we’d be concerned. But Illinois’ junior senator has been busy on many issues of substance.

In the past month, Kirk introduced a bipartisan bill to prevent bullying in schools. He worked with other Illinois leaders to reach a deal on the O’Hare International Airport expansion. His amendment to expedite assistance to small business owners during the federal patent approval process was approved. He plans to travel to the Horn of Africa this spring, then push anti-piracy legislation in response to bloody Somali pirate attacks. To put it mildly, the guy’s been busy representing the interests of Illinois and the nation, so we see no harm in his Silver Fleece Award.

In fact, we look forward to hearing about additional pork projects that fleece taxpayers of their hard-earned money. We’d look forward even more to the elimination of those projects.

The Silver Fleece Award just might help accomplish that goal.

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