US must handle stimulus money better

USF and other colleges vying for federal stimulus money may soon face some unexpected competition: British universities.

David Lammy, Britain’s higher education minister, told university leaders Thursday to go after U.S. research money to make up for looming federal budget cuts, according to the Financial Times.

Lammy said U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan to boost higher education spending could be a threat to British universities trying to compete with American schools or an opportunity.

“British universities can lament the fact that we can’t afford a cash injection on that scale,” he said. “Or they can, as I’ve repeatedly urged, try to get a piece of the action.”

Other British government officials are also advising U.K. schools to seek funding from foreign sources, according to the Financial Times.

Lammy said Thursday that Research Councils U.K., which represents federal-funded research groups, “has recently opened an office in Washington to provide a liaison point for U.K. and U.S. universities.”

Foreign institutions should not receive any U.S. stimulus money, which is supposed to revitalize the U.S. economy. It may seem unlikely that the U.S. government would give research money to the U.K., but with Obama trying to disburse billions of dollars in a short amount of time and everyone trying to get “a piece of the action,” some money will inevitably end up in undeserving hands.

Obama praised how the money was being spent during a speech last month on the one-year anniversary of the Recovery Act. He said when the $787-billion bill was passed, he and Vice President Joe Biden were concerned that “somewhere there’s going to be some story of some money that ended up being misspent … And it is a testimony to Vice President Biden and his team that, as Joe puts it, the dog so far at least hasn’t barked.”

Despite Obama’s optimism, there have been plenty of allegations of waste. Republican Sens. John McCain and Tom Coburn released a report concluding that of the $217 billion spent by the end of November, $7 billion has been wasted or mismanaged.

The wasteful projects include $5 million for a geothermal energy system in a Tennessee shopping mall, $100,000 to a Minnesota theater for socially conscious puppet shows and nearly $1 million to a Chicago-based dinner cruise company to combat terrorism.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell sent a press release highlighting examples of wasteful spending. His allegations ranged from thousands spent on insect research to tax credits for buying golf carts.

Fox News reported that possibly thousands of prison inmates in Massachusetts had mistakenly received $250 stimulus checks.

If convicts can receive stimulus money, it may not be a stretch for British universities to receive it. The government should keep watching for abuse so the money goes where it should.