From 1975 through 1988 Senator William Proxmire, a Wisconsin Democrat who died in 2005, regularly issued what he called Golden Fleece Awards that he said were intended to highlight examples of government waste. Sometimes they did exactly that. Unfortunately, quite often the things Proxmire attacked were in reality quite useful despite Proxmire’s — or more likely some staffer’s — efforts to describe them in some distorted way that made them sound ridiculous.
Going after waste is good. Misrepresenting things to get one’s name into the media isn’t.
More recently Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) has taken up the cause, issuing lists of what Coburn considers government waste. As with Proxmire, some things he complains about fully deserve the criticism. But as Media Matters points out, Coburn (like Proxmire) often seems more interested in what he can make sound bad than in what’s actually bad. In fact, he’s gone so far to attack spending that didn’t even exist.
Well, apparently the worthy gentleman, or at least his staff, has paid some attention to criticism of previous reports and complaints of people whose good names were unfairly damaged by Coburn’s press releases. The latest list of what he calls “unnecessary, duplicative, or just plain stupid projects” sports a disclaimer reading, “Some of the projects listed within this report may indeed serve useful purposes or have merit and those associated with the projects may disagree that they are not national priorities.”
Better than nothing, I guess.