Tunnel to Nowhere Among Millions Wasted in Stimulus Spending, Senate GOP Report Says

By Fred Lucas | August 3, 2010 | 4:49 PM EDT

In this May 4, 2010 file photo, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg, File)

Washington (CNSNews.com) – The federal government is spending $62 million on a tunnel to nowhere in Pittsburgh, Pa., $89,000 on a sidewalk that leads to a ditch in Boynton, Okla., and almost $200,000 to study voter perception of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the stimulus act, from which these other projects are funded.
That’s according to a report released on Tuesday by the offices of Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Both Coburn and McCain, the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, opposed the stimulus bill backed by President Barack Obama.
The $862-billion stimulus bill was signed into law by Obama in February 2009.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs scoffed at the Republicans' report. “This has much more to do with politics,” Gibbs said.
When asked if he believed it was a credible report, Gibbs said, “no.”
The 74-page report includes numerous projects, such as:

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said that before House members cast a vote for the Senate health care bill they should realize that nothing will be changed during reconciliation, which can happen only after the bill is signed into law by President Barack Obama. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

-- $554,763 for the National Forest Service to replace windows in a closed visitor center at Mount St. Helens; 
-- $762,372 to create “Dance Draw” interactive dance software;
-- $1.9 million for international ant research;
-- $1.8 million for a road project that is threatening a pastor’s home;
-- $308 million for a joint clean energy venture with BP, a highly unpopular firm since the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico; 
-- $3.8 million for a “streetscaping” project that has reduced traffic and caused a business to fire two employees;
-- $16 million to help Boeing clean up an environmental mess it created in 2007;
-- $200,000 to help Siberian communities lobby Russian policymakers; 
-- $39.7 million to upgrade the statehouse and political offices in Topeka, Kan.; 
-- $760,000 to Georgia Tech to study improvised music; 
-- $700,000 to study why monkeys respond negatively to inequity;
-- $363,760 to help NIH promote the positive impacts of stimulus projects; 
-- $456,663 to study the circulation of Neptune’s atmosphere;
-- $529,648 to study the effects of local populations on the environment…in the Himalayas.
“Eighteen months since the passage of the stimulus bill, millions of jobs are still gone and the economy is as uncertain as ever,” Coburn and McCain wrote in the report. “The only thing getting a boost is our national debt. The stimulus has helped push it 23 percent higher, to $13.2 trillion, a new record.”
Gibbs pointed out that Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics who advised the McCain campaign, recently completed a report with Princeton economist Alan Binder on what would have happened to the economy in the absence of the stimulus act and the $700 billion bailout of the financial industry, also known as Troubled Assets Relief Program.
“I think the best person for Sen. McCain to debate on this is the chief economic advisor of his own presidential campaign, who not only weighed in on the president’s recovery plan but has in the last week written an analysis on what our economy would look like without the steps that we took. It’s a report that says instead of 8 million jobs lost, that figure would be 16 million jobs,” Gibbs said.
CBS News reporter Chip Reid – who covered the McCain campaign – argued that Zandi is a registered Democrat, was only an outside adviser to the McCain campaign and did not formulate the campaign’s economic policy, but Gibbs nevertheless was dismissive of the question.  
Gibbs insisted that the stimulus act is working, adding that Vice President Joe Biden is still overseeing the expenditures.
“Every day the vice president and the vice president’s staff work diligently to assure that projects that receive funding abide by certain standards, all available on the Internet, a level of transparency not seen in government programs, particularly those with the magnitude of this,” Gibbs said.