Oklahoma's U.S. Senator worries about cost of mascots 

In an effort to stop wasteful spending " after all, the government needs $135 billion for the war in Iraq " Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn is going to go for the real big spenders: government mascots, according to The Associated Press.


According to the AP, Coburn thinks that the federal government is spending way too much on cute, funny animals or characters that stand as symbols for programs or initiatives.


Coburn refused to say just which wacky, crazy or goofy characters have garnered his ire, just that they have.


"It is not about going after a particular mascot," the Republican told AP. "It is about the money."


That's right. The government needs that money, since it's been determined that the war in Iraq may cost more than $500 billion. Would hate to see money wasted. 


Coburn told AP he wants to find out just how much the government spends annually on mascots and Web sites that support them.


"On average, it looks like there's (up to) $4 million a year just to maintain (a) Web site, and we have thousands of them," he said. "It is not one or two. There's thousands of them."


If there is one thing the senator stands for, it's giving that kind of money to children, Coburn told the AP.

"Some of them (the mascots) are pretty questionable," he told AP, asking why the government should spend $4 million a year on a mascot when such money could go to fund insurance for 150 children.


Coburn claimed the government may spend as much as half a billion dollars a year to maintain mascots and their sites. The AP reported that at least some of that money goes to " gasp! " private contractors.


"Maybe the federal government ought to develop Web sites rather than have "¦ $400 million spent," Coburn said.


Good thing the senator is keeping track of that, since it's been reported there are at least 180,000 private contractors in Iraq " more than the number of actual American soldiers " with hungry mouths to feed. They need that money.


One safety prevention animal has fired off a denial that it falls under the Senator's assertions. That would be good, old Smokey Bear.


"Smokey is not a mascot," said Allison Stewart, spokeswoman for the Forest Service. "Smokey is a fire-prevention bear."


Meanwhile, in a related story, Coburn suggested that border agents just shoot people crossing the Mexican border, whether they are running away or not.


"Why is it wrong for a Border Patrol agent who has stopped a van full of drugs, and the guy's running, why is it wrong to shoot him after they've told him to stop?" Coburn asked at a recent hearing regarding the shooting of a fleeing suspected smuggler by two agents. "I'm talking (about) our border, where we have a big problem with drugs. If in fact the message was: 'You come here with drugs, we interdict you and you don't stop, we're going to wing you, we're going to shoot you' " that message itself would do a lot to stop a lot of this."


It also should save a lot of money.

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