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Friday, June 21
The Indiana Daily Student

opinion

Government spending in the wrong places

Government spending is out of balance.

The National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency with a budget of $7.2 billion in fiscal year 2014, spent $300,000 to research how humans interact with bicycles.

Yes, that’s right.

Our federal government spent nearly six times the average personal income to research how to ride a bike.

The official purpose of the study was to create “dynamic models of bicycles controlled by human riders.” In other words, how we as humans control and ride bicycles.

First of all, what other kind of living organism would be controlling a bicycle if not a human?

Was this study afraid it would be confused with the one creating dynamic models of how cats ride bicycles? I certainly hope not.

Second, I just have to ask: Why? Why is this study even a possibility?

Of all the things a giant organization can allocate funds for, why this one?

If your first reaction to this finding is disgust, maybe amusement and a general loss of respect for the NSF, you would not be alone. That was my first reaction.

But then I learned what else it does.

According to a Sept. 21 IDS article, one of IU’s own chemistry professors has been given a grant to study air pollution, a more than noble cause.

That’s not all.

The NSF also supports studies in biofuels, new building materials, efficient food banks, childhood development and countless more projects. You can find a list of its latest discoveries on its website.

Of course, I believe that something new can always be learned, and I have no doubt that the process of riding a bicycle can be enhanced and improved.

Yet, with all the issues and problems this nation faces on any given day, you would suspect a better use of $300,000 could have been found.

Of course, this is not the first of these outrageous expenditures.

We can all point to some instance where the federal behemoth spent far more than it should on something far less valuable than it could have.

The majority of the expenditures for science are very valuable and worth the expense they incur.

It would seem the agency at its core is a worthwhile organization that we are better off with than without, even if sometimes it gets it foolishly wrong.

That’s why I describe the spending of the federal government as out of balance rather than out of control, which is the popular depiction, especially from the fiscally conservative camp.

This reminds me of how the truth is so very often found in the middle.

Do we spend far too much on useless things? Of course. But do we also spend a great deal on things we need to spend a great deal on? Of course.

As we encourage the government not to spend for bicycle research, for example, we should also applaud it for the things it does that make a difference.

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