Imagine, for a moment, that you are a bureaucrat at the National Institutes of Health charged with making decisions about spending the NIH budget.
One of your subordinates comes to you with a proposal for the NIH to spend $22,500, over two fiscal years, to fund the 9th World Congress for Hair Research. The subordinate notes that the theme of this year’s World Congress, sponsored by the North American Hair Research Society — which will be held at the “luxurious InterContinental Miami” hotel in Miami, Florida — is Reflect, Rejuvenate, and Regenerate. He says the Congress will bring together “hair biologists, dermatologists, cosmetic scientists and hair transplantation surgeons” to “present new research, share experiences, and discuss new directions for the advancement of knowledge in hair growth, hair and scalp disease, and clinical care” and is sponsored by the likes of Women’s Rogaine, Procter & Gamble, HairMax, Theradome, L’Oreal, Aveda, and the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery.
Do you: (a) tell the subordinate that his proposal is a very funny joke, and share a good laugh at the outlandish idea of federal tax dollars being used to help put on a “luxurious” conference about baldness and hair restoration surgery, (b) gently but firmly tell the subordinate that baldness and hair implant surgery aren’t the kind of serious health concerns that require the attention or support of the National Institutes of Health, or (c) rubber-stamp the proposal because it’s only for $22,500 out of the multi-million dollar NIH budget and note that the session about “Robotic Hair Transplants” looks like it should be interesting.
If you picked (c), you have a future as a federal bureaucrat.
In the grand scheme of trillion-dollar federal budget and trillion-dollar deficits, a $22,500 payment toward the 9th World Congress for Hair Research — which is going on now, thanks in part to your tax dollars — is just a drop of Rogaine in the bucket. This is about principle, however. Either the people who make decisions about how federal tax dollars are spent are zealous guardians of the public fisc, or they aren’t. And while some men and women may fret about losing their hair, there simply is no justification for federal support for a hair-care conference that already is amply supported by large corporate sponsors peddling hair-care products and hair restoration and regeneration treatments and techniques.
Kudos to Senator Rand Paul — whose tousled coiffure is at the other end of the hair spectrum — for calling attention to this little example of spending silliness. You can see the NIH information about the funding for the 9th World Congress here and here, and the Congress website is here.
Our reckless federal spending has fallen off the political radar screen, both because we’ve become hardened to enormous federal budget deficits and because other issues have come to the forefront. At some point, though, our federal government’s inability to control its budget and to resist obviously unnecessary spending will have terrible consequences. And that’s the bald-faced truth.