The Republican Party speaks:

GOP senators on Tuesday highlighted “pure waste” in the billions of stimulus funds spent this year, including money for fossil research in Argentina, puppet shows and to protect cruise ships from terrorist attacks…

What does the Republican Party consider wasteful? Science, apparently:

Half a million dollars went to Arizona State University to study the genetic makeup of ants to determine distinctive roles in ant colonies; $450,000 went to the University of Arizona to study the division of labor in ant colonies.

“I had no idea that so much expertise concerning ants resided in the major universities of my state,” said McCain. “I say that with an element of pride, but I’m not sure it’s deserving of these taxpayers’ dollars.”

This is bullshit. How does taxpayer-funded ant research produce value for the economy? I’ll let National Geographic explain:

Other companies also have profited by imitating ants. In Italy and Switzerland, fleets of trucks carrying milk and dairy products, heating oil, and groceries all use ant-foraging rules to find the best routes for deliveries. In England and France, telephone companies have made calls go through faster on their networks by programming messages to deposit virtual pheromones at switching stations, just as ants leave signals for other ants to show them the best trails.

In the U.S., Southwest Airlines has tested an ant-based model to improve service at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. With about 200 aircraft a day taking off and landing on two runways and using gates at three concourses, the company wanted to make sure that each plane got in and out as quickly as possible, even if it arrived early or late.

Ants are faced with the same logistical problems that we face in our own societies. With limited resources, how should ants most efficiently transport cargo? What are the fastest ways to share information? How do ants manage traffic congestion? What is the best way to patrol to territorial boundaries? How do agricultural species maintain their cultivars free from weeds?

120 million years of evolution have produced over 12,000 extant ant species. Each of these has found solutions to various logistical issues appropriate to their ecological context.  Some solutions- maybe even most of them- will not directly apply to human problems. But some do. And taxpayer-funded research into ant behavior is yielding organizational insights that may already be saving companies more than the public originally invested in the research.

I suppose a valid ideological counter-argument might be made that science should not be a responsibility of government, and that research investment should be left to the private sector. Fair enough. Or perhaps a careful cost-benefit analysis might show that programs other than myrmecology would prove a more lucrative research investment. Fine.

But either of these approaches are vastly more sophisticated than what the Republicans are doing. In the place of staking out a coherent position, they’ve instead read through the stimulus bill and fingered words that made them snicker.

Money for bee learning? Ha, ha, must be wasteful. Fossils in Argentina? Ho Ho!

And this is the entirety of Republican intellectual engagement on spending policy. Juvenile theatrics of pointing and laughing at things they neither understand nor wish to.