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It's Like Craigslist for People Who Hate Government Spending

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, March 28 2013

The National Republican Congressional Committee has launched "Waste List," a web-friendly collection of all the things Republicans think the federal government shouldn't be spending money on.

A chief source for the list is "Wastebook," an annual effort by the office of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), most recently released in in October 2012.

Coburn's "Wastebooks" are an annual endeavor to take potshots at the size and direction of government spending, a short list — published as a PDF and, I presume, in hard copy somewhere inside the Beltway — that have raised eyebrows at the New Republic since 2010 and excites editors at Fox News. But while a 202-page report might be red meat for a certain type of policy wonk, it doesn't exactly speak to a broad audience.

And so the NRCC has aggregated Coburn's latest "wastebook," a Government Accountability Office report, and other sources into a Craigslist-style index of things that might irk the average taxpayer.

"There's something near and dear to the heart of the Internet about a catalogue of specific things," says Gerrit Lansing, the NRCC's digital director. "And when it comes to spending, there's a Venn diagram there of people who think there's a lot of government waste and people on the Internet who love lists."

The White House is set to release a budget on April 10, following months of back-and-forth over whether the cutback-imposing sequester should be allowed to take effect, how terrible it would be, how it wouldn't really be that terrible, and so on.

Lansing says "Waste List" is meant to highlight nonsensical government programs that would be sensible to cut. (In 2010, the New Republic noted that Coburn placed on his list a program to study sex workers in Vietnam — which might seem profligate, except for the relevance it might have to learning more about, for example, HIV transmission. "We can have that debate," Lansing says.)

It's also the latest example of how Republicans and Democrats alike are repackaging their Beltway policy ideas to for a web audience. As BuzzFeed might aggregate pictures of cats, so too is NRCC aggregating the arguments of its "official-side" partners, like Coburn, into a form that makes more sense for the Internet. Websites are starting to catch on; something called Red Alert Politics has already published the "ten best examples of wasteful government spending," complete with (unattributed) photos for each one.

"The audience for this is the public at large for sure," Lansing says. "I mean people know that the government wastes money but they don't even know what the GAO is so they don't have the time to go find the GAO report and compile it into an easy to read format."

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