Senator Coburn

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Oklahoma Senator Tom CoburnOriginally published on Game Politics.

Every year, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma publishes a list of government programs which he feels wastes tax payer money and government resources called the Wastebook. While he tops the list of wasted tax payer money with a jab at Congress itself, it is when you get into the rest of the document that you find some rather interesting spending programs. In his opening statement to the report, Coburn writes:

Confronted with self-imposed budget cuts necessary to trim years of trillion dollar shortfalls, Washington protested that it could not live within its means. It attempted to take hostage the symbols of America to exact ransom from taxpayers. Public tours of the White House were canceled and Medicare payments for seniors’ health care were cut.

While the President and his cabinet issued dire warnings about the cataclysmic impacts of sequestration, taxpayers were not alerted to all the waste being spared from the budget axe.

Many of these are your typical government waste, such as bridges to nowhere, duplicated programs and agencies, or unused buildings which cost money to maintain. Yet, he highlights many other programs that many taxpayers may not be aware of even in a general sense. Some of these include funding for video games. Continue Reading

Oklahoma Senator Tom CoburnEarlier this year, Senator Coburn signed on as a cosponsor to legislation that would require the National Academy of Sciences to perform studies into the connection between violent games and violent actions. In response to this bill and our concerns over its implementation and potential ramifications on our industry, we sent a letter to Senator Coburn.

In that letter, we expressed concern over the bill’s primary sponsor Senator Rockefeller and over Senator Coburn’s involvement when he has clearly been against studies of similar nature in the past.

After nearly 3 months, we have finally received a response from Senator Coburn. (posted below) It certainly isn’t the response we may have wanted, but it isn’t an unexpected response. Few politicians will back out of their support for legislation once they become a full cosponsor of it. Continue Reading

Oklahoma Senator Tom CoburnToday, Oklahoma game developers sent its letter to Senator Coburn regarding his co-sponsorship of S. 134 Violent Content Research Act of 2013. This bill if passed would require the National Academy of Sciences to perform studies into the connection between violent games and violent actions. The primary issue with this legislation is that the bill’s sponsor has shown a heavy bias against the games industry which leads us to believe that any studies resulting from this bill could be tainted by his bias.

Senator Coburn has many times come out against the funding for such studies and it is unclear why he would support a bill that could potentially waste tax payer money as well as dilute the valuable research that can be done outside the influence of bias.

The below letter was sent to Senator Coburn as well as members of the media based in Oklahoma and throughout the US.   Continue Reading

Oklahoma Senator Tom CoburnYesterday, we alerted everyone to the ECA’s effort to defeat a bill that would approve funding for research into the effect of violent games on those playing them. The ECA cited numerous studies already performed that debunk that theory and exposed a strong potential bias in the bill’s author Senator Rockefeller.

However, new information has popped up that adds a strong incentive for game developers in Oklahoma to fight this bill. It has come to our attention that Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has signed on as a cosponsor of the bill, S. 134 Violent Content Research Act of 2013.

Why is this important? For one, Senator Coburn is one of Oklahoma’s two US senators. However, there is a more important point that many may have missed. Senator Coburn has for many years railed against wasteful government spending. Since 2010, Senator Coburn has released what he calls his annual “Wastebook” in which he highlights 100 specific areas of Federal Government Spending that could be cut and how much money could be saved. (see Wastebook 2010, Wastebook 2011, Wastebook 2012) Continue Reading

Senator CoburnToday, many news outlets were taking Senator Coburn to task for his criticism of many aspects of what he termed wasteful government spending.

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) today released a new oversight report, “Wastebook 2011” that highlights over $6.5 billion in examples of some of the most egregious ways your taxpayer dollars were wasted. This report details 100 of the countless unnecessary, duplicative and low-priority projects spread throughout the federal government.

This isn’t the first time Sen. Coburn has written a report like this. It probably w0n’t be the last. Sen. Coburn has made it a part of his Senatorial mission to eliminate waste from Federal spending. While we can argue about what programs should be cut first, there is little doubt that all of the programs he lists are well outside the scope of the Constitutional bounds of the government.

Within this report, there is one topic that has gotten the gaming press all in a tizzy. He highlighted a program that gave a bit over $100,000 to The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games to help with its video game preservation work. People are getting the wrong impression from this report. Sen. Coburn is not saying that games are not worth preserving. He is saying that doing so is not the Government’s responsibility. I am not sure why that is so hard to understand.

PongIn response to the reports around the web, the ICHEG has written a press release on why it thinks its mission is  important.

Recently, news reports cited as wasteful spending a $113,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games to preserve video games. We disagree. We believe video games not only are the most dynamic, exciting, and innovative form of media today but also an important form of play and a driver of cultural change.

Games sharpen people’s ability to solve problems and overcome challenges. Games teach people to cooperate and to collaborate in new ways, whether that’s in the same room or across the Internet. It’s no wonder that schools, businesses, medicine, and the military are using video games to train tomorrow’s leaders.

While the release makes a good argument for why their work is important and why people should support it, it fails to convince me that it is the job of the Government to fund it. Don’t get me wrong. I think that this work is extremely important. There is a lot of apathy within the games industry that makes the task more difficult. However, I think that if it needs more funding, it should be paid for by private citizens and organizations that want this work done.

Taxes are meant to be for paying for the work the government must do as outlined in the Constitution. Preserving art of any kind is not one of those responsibilities. So if this organization wants to continue their work, they need to make their pleas for funding to the games industry and gamers who are willing to donate to the cause.

To illustrate how one can go about funding such a project, I came across this Kickstarter project to raise $30,000 for the Video Game History Museum. Not only did this project reach its goal, it exceeded it by over $20,000. Private citizens are willing to donate to these causes. In fact, one person even donated $10,000 on their own. These types of projects can succeed without spending tax payer money.

Disclaimer: I am an Oklahoma Citizen and Senator Coburn is one of my Senators. I did not vote for for him in the last election.