Stimulus Funds for Martini Bars, Rat Sex?

Stimulus project
An Ohio Department of Transportation sign is seen near the Interstate 490 and Interstate 77 ramps on Monday, June 8, 2009 in Cleveland. The project is using stimulus funds to widen the road to two lanes to accommodate trucks. But a Government Accountability Office report and a House committee found that the stimulus funds are not going to the areas where jobs and improvement projects are most needed.
AP Photo/Plain Dealer, Scott Shaw

The public's overall assessment of the condition of the national economy remains grim; 77 percent of Americans say the economy is in bad shape.

The economic stimulus package was supposed to help with that. As of the end of November, the government has spent $217 billion in stimulus, and two Republican Senators say that at least 15 percent of it has been pure waste, as CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports.

You probably wouldn't guess that a martini bar and a Brazilian steak house would be on tap for stimulus funds. But in St. Joseph, Missouri the two privately-owned facilities are getting $100,000 of your tax dollars. The idea is that their success will help revitalize the area.

But to Senators John McCain and Tom Coburn, it's a glaring example of stimulus spending that ranges from "wasteful to silly and shortsighted."

"The American people have to realize that the priorities oughta be what creates the most jobs and what gives the best value to the American people," Coburn said.

In a new report, the Senators highlight 100 stimulus projects worth $7 billion, including:

-A water pipeline to a money-losing golf course in San Francisco ($2.2 million).
-Fossil research in Argentina ($1.57 million).
-Puppet shows ($50,000) and clown theatre ($25,000).
-Money for people to keep journals of their malt liquor and marijuana use ($389,357);
-Money to study the "hookup" behavior of college co-eds ($219,000); and
-A big cut of stimulus funds for Lockheed Martin to develop supersonic jet travel catering to upscale clientele ($4.7 million)

We're also spending a lot to learn from the animal kingdom: cooperation from birds ($90,000), the sex drive of rats on hard drugs ($30,000), the "caste system" and division of labor in ants ($100,000).

The Obama administration's stimulus spokeswoman said, "Even if there are a few unwise projects, it's only a handful out of the over 50,000 projects ... approved to date."

The administration has become increasingly sensitive to appearances. A case in point is the $9 million plan for a footbridge over Rt. 1 in Foxboro, Mass.

The governor and his staff made the astonishing claim it could create 8,000 jobs, by enticing a major development.

"We're looking at is as a major corporate or [research and development] park," Massachusetts Secretary of Economic Development Greg Bialecki said at the time.

But with no imminent prospects, the head of state stimulus oversight said the only one sure to benefit is the billionaire who owns the parking lots, mall and stadium on both sides of the road.

Massachusetts sate Rep. David Linsky called it "a waste of public funds" and stressed that tare are many other projects that genuinely deserve the funds.

Just last Friday, after federal officials voiced concern about the project, the state yanked the stimulus funds saying the project wasn't ready to go.

Taxpayers are still picking up the tab to renovate that martini bar in Missouri. But if it's any consolation, they're offering two dollars off martinis. Think of it as a taxpayer rebate.