Federal government has spent nearly $1 million on romance

Popular Romance Project

The federal government has spent nearly $1 million studying romance in popular culture, according to a new report that targets government waste.

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded $914,000 to help fund The Popular Romance Project since 2010, an ongoing study that explores “the fascinating, often contradictory origins and influences of popular romance as told in novels, films, comics, advice books, songs, and internet fan fiction.”

With help from taxpayers, the Popular Romance Project is producing a documentary about romance novels called “Love Between the Covers,” a website “dedicated to romance and romance novels,” and academic conferences on the genre.

The grants are highlighted in the 2013 “Wastebook,” an annual report released by Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn that highlights taxpayer-subsidized programs that he argues are questionable or unnecessary, especially during a time when lawmakers are viciously debating spending levels and how to trim the nation’s $17 trillion debt.

The Romance Project is just one of nearly 100 programs targeted by Coburn’s report, which also includes a documentary on superheroes, promotion of a Green Ninja character to educate children about climate change, and a zombie-themed video game for math education. Coburn’s paper calls into question nearly $30 billion in federal spending that some would argue would have been better spent elsewhere.

The release of the “Wastebook” comes at a time when Congress is slashing funding for food assistance programs that benefit 47 million Americans and when sequestration has trimmed federal spending on other domestic and military programs.

“As you glance at each of the entries presented in this report,” Coburn writes in the opening pages of this year’s “Wastebook,” “place your personal political persuasion aside and ask yourself: Do each of these represent a real national priority that should be spared from budget cuts or are these excesses that should have been eliminated in order to spare deeper cuts to those services and missions that should be performed by the federal government?”

We’ll leave that determination to you.