I try not to be too partisan on this blog, but the short version is this: elements of the new Republican Congress have attempted to "crowdsource" policy, and it seems to have redefined the term "know-nothings". Recently, Republican lawmakers used a crowdsourcing tool (YouCut Review) to nominate those NSF projects that were the biggest waste of government money.
The verdict: apparently, there weren't enough jeers to go around. Hence, the NSF must not be doing a very good job. Two stand out as project I've seen (excellent) presentations on:
Sound Physics in Virtual Worlds
Movement and information (Neuromechanics) in electric fish
And the outcome of said projects? Quite a bit of knowledge (e.g. research papers), and even a few very useful engineering artifacts. Hardly a "waste" of money. In fact, it's a bargain when you consider other things we waste money on:
Celebrity gossip (from what I've seen, the Paparazzi do more harm than good)
Lotteries (if the money spent here went to a tax increase, you'd be more likely to see a payoff)
Smear campaigns (politics - the 2010 election cycle in the US was burdened with around $4bn in attack ads, mostly by 3rd parties. It got to the point of being pure noise, at which point the parties in question kept on spending)
The point is that these NSF-funded projects were picked because they "sounded" like a waste of time, not because they actually are (my second list is probably closer to the truth, but they probably serve some valid social function). Please join me in outing this cynical strategy.