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


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.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate