Dancing Away the Stimulus Money

Do you know how your tax dollars are being spent?

Wednesday, Aug 4, 2010  |  Updated 11:46 AM EDT
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Dancing Away the Stimulus Money

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While you're working in your cubicle, maybe staying late and missing dinner so you can make enough money to pay the bills (and, of course, send about a third of your pay to the government in taxes), you can be happy in knowing that some are dancing their time away at your expense.

About $762,000 of the federal government's stimulus money went to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to develop a computerized choreography program that supporters hope could lead to a "Youtube-like Dance Tube" online application.

A device is attached to each dancer which will be recorded on video and their movements will be logged and analyzed.

The expenditure is one of 100 detailed in a document released by Sens. Tom Coburn and John McCain called "Summertime Blues."

The stimulus was passed with the idea of creating jobs, but the report concludes that some of these projects are actually costing jobs.

Locally, the District is mentioned at No. 21 regarding a $498,000 smartphone program that was funded to help people quit smoking.  From the report:

"Whether they use the patch, the gum, or go cold turkey, millions of Americans try to quit smoking every year for their own health. Now, Uncle Sam will give them an additional reason to quit: a taxpayerfunded smartphone. The American Legacy Foundation is slated to receive almost half a million dollars to provide quitting smokers with a smartphone so they can contact their quitting support groups by text message or phone call to prevent relapses. The project bills itself as an ideal use of Recovery Act funds because “it represents an extraordinary opportunity to jump-start a collaborative effort that spearheads the use of web-enabled mobile devices to enhance the efficiency, fidelity, and impact of an established tobacco quit-line program that benefits underserved communities in Washington, D.C."

At No. 49 is a $450,000 project that was supposed to dredge a marina in Lancaster, Va., but, according to the report, the dredged materials have been pushed down the Rappahannock River and have created a sandbar around a restaurant's dock, making it useless. 

Washington & Lee High School in Montross, Va., is mentioned at No. 53.  The report says it has a leaky roof and a poorly functioning HVAC system, but was given money for a new concession stand at a cost of $22,000.

Other stimulus expenditures listed are $554,000 to replace windows in a closed National Park Service visitor center that has no plans to be re-opened; $1.9 million to study exotic ants; $298,543 to study weather conditions on other planets; $199,862 to help Siberians lobby Russian policymakers; $71,623 to study how monkeys react to cocaine; and $712,883 for researchers at Northwestern University to develop a joke machine.

The lead designer of the joke machine plans to use "artificial intelligence to create a comedic performance agent" that is funny no matter what it is talking about.

Some might question why we need a joke machine when we've already got the U.S. Congress?

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