Wild man’s world is cryin’ in pain, what you gonna do when everybody’s insane? So afraid of one who’s so afraid of you, what you gonna do…ohhh…? Crazy on ya. Crazy on you. Let me go crazy, crazy on you. So sang one of my favorite bands, Heart, in its first commercial hit, peaking at #35 on the charts in the summer of 1976.
Crazy is exactly what the government does when it funds totally ridiculous “research studies.” Today, the results of one of these ridiculous studies was published by NBC News with the terrifying headline that Falling TVs send a child to the ER every 30 minutes. The article cites as one of the study’s authors (as if this takes a lot of people to research) who says that, “This is a serious problem.” It seems that Dr. Gary Smith, the author, thinks a whole lot of things are serious problems. In fact, his CV lists nearly 100 just as nonsensical studies including those examining: Childhood asphyxiation by food, shopping cart-related injuries to children, fireworks-related injuries to children, babywalker-related injuries, injuries related to chigger bites on the penis, injuries to children related to trampolines, bicycle-related injuries to children, downhill fatal skiing injuries among children, childhood bathtub-related injuries, lawn-mower-related injuries to children, eyeglasses-related injuries, school bus-related injuries among children and teenagers, gymnastics-related injuries to children bunk bed-related injuries among children and adolescents, oh yes, and 10 years ago, television related injuries.
To conduct all of this truly mind-numbing research, Dr. Smith has received millions of dollars in taxpayer funds from a range of state and federal agencies including: $1,365,228 from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, $210,000 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, $155,634 from the Ohio Department of Public Safety, Division of Emergency Medical Services, $600,000 from the Ohio Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, $308,697 from the Ohio Department of Public Safety, Division of Emergency Medical Services, $543,004 from the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and $894,417 from the Ohio Department of Public Safety.
It would just be crazy if a doctor wanted to study and write about nonsensical stuff, but doing so while raking in millions of taxpayer dollars is downright criminal.
I would guess that if I were hit by a TV that fell off a piece of furniture (and we now know the astonishing detail that 46 percent of these attacking televisions fell off a dresser or armoire, while 31 percent fell from an entertainment center or TV stand) it would seem serious to me, but on a national basis, the fact that some TVs fell off of furniture is not a national crisis. In fact, according to the “study” an “alarming” 12,300 kids received some sort of emergency room treatment related to being struck, electrocuted, etc. by a television set. Since there are 73.8 million children in the United States, this means that there is a 0.017 percent chance of being injured by a TV. In their 18 years from birth to adulthood, a child has a 0.31 percent chance of being struck by a TV. With all of the other dangers like penal chigger bites, escalators, shopping carts and eyeglasses, it’s amazing that anyone survives to adulthood.
As an economist I can’t fault Dr. Smith for grabbing a good thing when he sees it. Heck, I would love the government to pay me millions of dollars to tell them that the sun will rise in the morning. However, in a country that can’t seem to find money to fund the Blue Angels, to pay for air traffic controllers, or to open the White House for tours, wasting millions of dollars on studying this sort of nonsense really has to stop. The $2.3 million in grant funds outlined in this post is just a small part of the government succor received by one half-baked researcher. When one considers how much of this nonsense is published, how many billions of dollars are being wasted?