Is Congress Wasting Money on Pot, Condom, and Yoga Studies?

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In an attempt to slam Democrats for frivolous spending, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has proposed a ban on government-funded studies that may sound extraneous, even laughable to some—at least at surface value. Politico reports that that Issa proposed amendments that that would ban “studies of how well men use condoms, the effects of integral yoga in treating hot flashes for menopausal women, whether video games improve old folks’ mental health, the use of marijuana in conjunction with malt liquor and with opiates, and the impacts of a possible soda tax.”

It isn’t the first time that Republicans have tried to single out silly-sounding research studies to criticize government spending. Shortly before the 2008 elections, Sarah Palin ridiculed Congress for spending money on “fruit fly research,” and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal famously denounced Obama in 2009 for spending stimulus money on volcano monitoring. But while such jabs might produce easy laughs, in both instances there were substantive reasons for funding such research projects that Republicans blithely ignored. Fruit fly research, for instance, has lead to major advances in understanding autism, and volcano monitoring has been a critical part of preventing catastrophic natural disasters. (In fact, just four months after Jindal made his remarks, a massive eruption in Iceland wreaked havoc throughout Europe.)

It’s hard to tell from the bare-bones Politico story whether the studies that Issa is attacking are similarly substantive. But it’s certainly worth digging deeper to ask what the greater value of such government-funded research might be, rather than dismissing them out of hand as patently ridiculous. The effective use of condoms, for example, has been integral to preventing STDs and supporting public health. And Issa should be pressed to answer such questions before simply being rewarded with sympathetic laughs and attention-grabbing headlines.

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