Apparently they do:
The Obama administration has credited its $862 billion stimulus program with pulling the economy out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. But a new report by two Republican senators argues the stimulus is riddled with wasteful projects that do not create jobs.
The report, released by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and John McCain, R-Ariz., highlights 100 stimulus projects that they say have “questionable goals,” are “being mismanaged or were poorly planned” and are even “costing jobs and hurting small businesses.”
…Go a little further down the list and you’ll find even bigger spending. The California Academy of Sciences is receiving nearly $1 million in stimulus funds to send researchers to the Southwest Indian Ocean Islands and East Africa to capture, photograph and analyze thousands of exotic ants.
The Senators’ report is not surprising. It’s the latest volley in a predictably cynical strategy to sway voter opinion by playing to public illiteracy. The report contains no serious analysis of cost and benefit for any of the projects- it’s just a loose collection of titles that caused some junior GOP staffers to snicker. There’s no substance, just purely political manipulation.
The ant grant in question supports Antweb and will shore up the collections of one of the world’s largest and most widely-used biodiversity informatics projects, salarying several people, and answering some key questions about how ant species- including pest ant species- move about the globe.
The fundamental flaw in the Senators’ ploy is the unstated assumption that grant money, once awarded, just disappears into the wind with nary a penny touching the American economy. But that’s plain ridiculous.
The reason these projects are expensive is that they pay people to do work. The bulk of most basic science grants goes into salary, either budgeted directly in the project or filtered indirectly through institutional overhead. Antweb is going to hire technicians. Those folks will rent apartments and shop at local stores. American Airlines will receive business ferrying people to field sites. Bioquip will sell curation equipment.
The fact that ants make some juvenile political operatives giggle isn’t really an argument one way or another. It’s just noise.
Update: Republicans also hate the NCSU insect blog, making fun of NCSU entomology because it “only gets 44 visitors a year” while failing to note that NCSU entomology is a research institution- an important one at that- rather than an exhibit.