In case you thought that Republicans had in any way turned their back on frivolous spending, here is a reminder that they have not. According to The Atlantic, Republicans have completely surrendered on even the idea of curtailing government spending on frivolous research that could just as easily be funded by the private sector.
In this case, we’re talking about funding for the National Institutes of Health, which I’m sure does many useful things, but also spends a lot of money on really dumb experiments that have been done over and over again for years with self-evident results. A choice example of waste in taxpayer-funded “research spending” is seeing whether monkeys being addicted to cocaine has adverse health consequences for monkeys. (Spoiler alert: Doing cocaine is not a healthy lifestyle choice, and I figured that out all my own without any government funding).
Here’s another fine example: Spending $1.2 million to study rat ejaculation. Yes, really. It turns out that male rats like ejaculating. Another post-it on the cork board of obvious.
But, you know, a lot of self-described conservatives don’t like having fights about spending with Democrats because Democrats accuse them of being mean, and stuff, so Republicans just kind of gave this away, like they have in the past on Planned Parenthood funding, or Obamacare funding, or, well, hundreds of other things.
Cue up Rep. Tom Cole: “’We’re gonna fight over Obamacare, we’re gonna fight over family planning, we’re gonna fight over any number of educational programs," said the Republican Tom Cole, the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that determines healthcare, labor, and educational funding. But they’re not going to fight over the value of the NIH.” (For the record, they didn’t really fight much about two of those things, at least, until very recently).
And Rep. Kevin Yoder got in on the act, too:
“Last year, Representative Kevin Yoder made it his mission to convince ‘the most ardent or strident conservatives in the House to get them to embrace research’ as a fiscally and morally responsible thing to fund… More than 100 House Republicans, including the likes of ultraconservative Dave Brat, signed onto his letter to House leadership pushing for a $3 billion bump.”
Brat is an ex-professor, and universities obviously benefit from money doled out by the federal government for this kind of research (some of it allegedly done to keep funding streams going, as opposed to for what might more universally be considered useful individual cases of research—see the “constant funding” quote here). Maybe that’s an issue here, or maybe it’s just that Democrats like Sen. Patty Murray who love sending whopping great loads of cash to government, and was behind the push to vastly increase NIH spending—have convinced the public that if you don’t vote for ever-increasing amounts of this stuff, you’re anti-science and want people to die of horrible diseases, and Republicans are just afraid. That would fit with an existing pattern we’ve seen for years now.
But whatever the reason, this seems like another instance where Republicans could, if they stuck to some principles, save taxpayers some money. At the very least, they could have more cash to divert to things like national defense or paying down the debt, or maybe even (who knows?) shoring up those entitlements that continually run in the red? If there’s really merit in seeing what happens when you stick a monkey on cocaine, or drill into housecats’ brains or enjoying some voyeurism with horny rats, the private sector will fund that. I'm sure they're all chomping at the bit for the opportunity to work on such vital experiments.