Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) released his second annual “Federal Fumbles” report Monday to shed light on some of the peculiar things on which the United States government spends taxpayer money or attempts to regulate businesses.
Upon releasing the report Monday, Lankford told reporters his report summarizes the ways “the federal government has dropped the ball,” adding:
“For every one of these as we did last year, we're focused on the same thing. We're not just trying to raise the problem, we're also trying to raise how do you solve it.”
Lankford also said that four areas of government need severe reforms, including oversight of grants, regulatory policy, agency inefficiency and lack of coordination between agencies.
The 154-page report outlines dozens of different programs and initiatives by the federal government. Here are six of the most bizarre ones.
1. Gas station tofu
The United States Department of Agriculture wanted to encourage healthy eating in 2016. That desire included a proposed regulation that would require stores across the U.S. to sell healthy options of food if they wanted to accept food stamps for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
That would include gas station convenience stores, which would have to begin selling items like almond milk, tofu and shrimp, according to the report.
2. Counting sea ducks
The total number of sea ducks is currently too difficult to determine and the process of tagging them for tracking kills them, increasing duck mortality rates by 20-70 percent, according to the FWS.
For those reasons, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a $180,000 funding opportunity for organizations to develop a new and more effective method of counting and tagging sea ducks.
3. Medieval smells
Three separate government agencies spent a combined $495,000 to create an exhibit that answered the question: What did it smell like during Medieval times?
The Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Endowment for Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts combined efforts to construct a temporary art exhibit called “A Sense of Beauty: Medieval Art and the Five Senses.”
According to Lankford's report, the exhibit has yet to open, but a near identical exhibit is slated to begin soon.
4. Ruling under the influence
The Social Security Administration received reports that one Administrative Law Judge routinely assaulted female employees and was intoxicated while doing so. The complaints against judge, dating back to at least 2011, were ignored and he continued to issue rulings.
That judge has since been placed on administrative leave, according to Lankford's report. But during his appeal before the Merit Systems Protection board, the judge claimed that his ruling while under the influence was well known, and therefore qualifies as “past practice.”
5. Leave the dolphins alone!
The United States Department of Agriculture proposed a rule in 2016 that would prevent Americans from swimming with dolphins.
The rule stems from 1995, in which the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service used the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 to curb businesses' ability to let tourists swim with dolphins. Businesses fought back, and the rule was scrapped in 1999.
But almost two decades later, the USDA decided to bring it back, which Lankford's report called unnecessary because the agency should stick to its other “broad responsibilities.”
6. Begun, the War on Christmas has
The USDA has a Christmas Tree Promotion Board to strategize effective ways to encourage Americans to buy those big pine trees meant for decorating and garnishing with presents on December 25th.
However, that promotion board also wants to penalize the Christmas tree industry's growers. Tree farmers who grow or import a certain number each year are required to pay a tax.
The Christmas Tree Promotion Board proposed another rule that would impose interest charges on late payments for “promoting” their trees.
The entire “Federal Fumbles” report can be read here.