Government waste never seems to waste away - and Congress does nothing about it

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 17, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: We bet not one of those items was on your holiday shopping list, either, and you bought all of it. Little green man cartoons for NASA, red wine for the Chinese. They need red wine. A bone yard filled with abandoned planes, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Senator Tom Coburn has made it his personal mission to get to the bottom of government waste. He joins us.

Nice to see you, sir.

SEN. TOM COBURN, R-OKLA.: Greta, good to see you. Thanks for having me.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is horrifying. This book you've written about all the government waste, stunning.

COBURN: Well, you know, I'm not amazed or shocked anymore. I know the stupid, incompetent things we do. What is even worse than that book is that the members of Congress aren't fixing it. You think about it -- you know, people can pick at that book and say, well, that's just your philosophy. You don't think that's an appropriate way to spend money. And I'd get them, actually ask them to think about it a different way. At a time when we're borrowing $750 billion a year and we have almost an $18 trillion debt, is now the time, even if you think I'm wrong, is now the time to spend money on those kinds of things? The NSF granting a study to check -- I mean, why is that something we need to do? Our problem is, is we're spending money that we don't have on things that we don't need. We don't need that study.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, in the introductory, first part of the book, you talk about how the president and his cabinet issued dire warnings about a cataclysmic impacts of sequestration that taxpayers, you know, what was going to happen to us, yet, we just spend money like crazy on these projects.

COBURN: Well, this book is half of the sequester. There's over $31 billion in this book. And I've got another 200 or 300 projects that I could put into a list that could easily give us $100 billion a year. So, the question the taxpayers ought to be asking is, why isn't Congress fixing that?

VAN SUSTEREN: But I don't understand, why isn't the media -- you asked why Congress doesn't fix it. I don't know why the media doesn't jump on it. You say $400,000 to determine whether or not the Tea Party people are dummies in science or not, and the media will say, well, that's just $400,000. That's nothing, it's $400,000.

COBURN: The way you get rid of trillion-dollar deficits is a billion dollars at a time. So in that book you have on your desk is $30 billion worth of stupidity and incompetence.

VAN SUSTEREN: Give me examples.

COBURN: Uncle Sam looking for romance on the web. Another wonderful study?

VAN SUSTEREN: Wait. We're paying for romance on the web?


VAN SUSTEREN: We're looking for it?

COBURN: We're studying it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Studying it. Why?

COBURN: The National Endowment of Humanities has spent $914,000 to look at romance on the web and romance throughout all romance novels throughout the world, not just here, and that's a study that they put forward. Now, maybe somebody somewhere ought to research that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Private money can do that.

COBURN: Sure. But should we spend $1 million doing that at a time when we're going belly up as a country?

VAN SUSTEREN: What else do we have?

COBURN: The Ft. Hood killer. Because the administration said that was workplace violence rather than a terrorist attack, we paid him over $250,000 all the time he was awaiting trial.

VAN SUSTEREN: Meanwhile, we're cutting the money for the military.

COBURN: Yeah. We pay the guy that killed, what, I think 12 people and injured some 20 or 30 others? And we continued to pay him until he was convicted. He's not collecting money now. But had it been declared a terrorist incident, he wouldn't have gotten any money. But yet, we made a decision to do that. So, somebody somewhere made a stupid decision. You know, when you're yelling Allah Akbar as you're killing American soldiers and civilians, that's not a workplace violence episode. That is a terrorist attack. So, we had that.

We spent $415,000 supporting wineries so they could sell red wine to red China. So, that's a private business. We're spending the money to support them to go over there and market their wares. And all of these are highly profitable vineyards that sell out their product every year.

VAN SUSTEREN: Can you -- is it possible to find out whose fingerprints are on these, I mean, who's putting these in?

COBURN: Well, that one came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

VAN SUSTEREN: But who asked for it?

COBURN: Well, you can't find that. As a matter of fact, one of the problems with the Obama administration, when we write a letter, we hardly ever get an answer.


VAN SUSTEREN: In other words, even if you're asking --


COBURN: I can't tell you the individual, which comes to the other side of it. Where's the accountability? In other words, if you make a decision that wastes money, should you not be held accountable as a federal employee?

VAN SUSTEREN: I think so. But anyway, Senator, it's a great book, and once again, you know, I tip my hat to you.

COBURN: Then get it on the website,

VAN SUSTEREN: Great. Thank you, sir.

COBURN: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'll put it on GretaWire as well.

COBURN: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, sir.