Jun 16, 2007

Evaluating the CDC from the 'Waste' Down

Most of us are shocked that transgender beauty pageants even exist--but what if I said that as a U.S. taxpayer you've already funded one? According to a new report on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), that's just one in a long line of unnecessary expenses that have gone unpunished, and, until now, unnoticed by Congress.

When CDC Director Julie Gerberding told the Senate that her agency "needed" an additional billion dollars, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) decided to investigate how the last $10 billion had been spent. What he found was enough to make anyone sick. It turns out that the CDC has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars over the past few years on everything from vegetable statues to zero gravity chairs.

As Coburn outlines in his report, "CDC Off Center," the agency has expended millions on lavish facilities, questionable conferences, and new offices in the home states of committee members who oversee its funding. Among some of the more outrageous line items, the CDC used syphilis prevention funds to host a "safe sex" event with a porn star. It spent $45 million for conferences, including some that featured prostitutes and beach parties.

On the HIV/AIDS front, one grantee hosted a "bar night" with instructions on "how to throw a good party with lots of alcohol." As Coburn notes with tragic irony, the CDC spent enough on trips for employees to international AIDS conferences to underwrite drugs that would have prevented mother-to-child AIDS transmission in over 115,000 babies.

If Dr. Gerberding "needs" an additional billion dollars to operate, we suggest that she look within her own budget and eliminate projects and programs that are nothing more than bureaucratic shams.