Under former President Donald Trump, the national debt skyrocketed by 36 percent to a whopping $27 trillion, despite his promise to eliminate it altogether in eight years. Relative to the size of the economy, Trump's increase of the federal deficit is the third-largest of any President in American history.
Nevertheless, Trump and his spending enjoyed widespread support from Republican lawmakers and right-wing media, who would spend the next three and a half years hailing him as one of the greatest Presidents for the economy of all time.
But with Democratic President Joe Biden now in office, the deficit and frivolous government spending is once again a concern for Republicans. Earlier this year, Biden and congressional Democrats passed a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package that had the audacity to preserve expanded unemployment benefits, send stimulus checks to most Americans, and begin cutting child poverty in half.
Now, the Biden administration is proposing a $2.6 trillion (over eight years) infrastructure bill that would raise taxes on corporations while expanding broadband internet access to all Americans, retrofitting government buildings and private businesses to offset the climate crisis, removing toxic lead pipes from America's water systems, and creating or restoring thousands of miles in roads and bridges.
Like clockwork, the conservative Fox News network ran at least three different segments to decry irresponsible government spending, all hinging on a decade-old and wildly exaggerated story.
In 2011, Republican Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn excoriated the National Science Foundation—a government research funder—for supposedly throwing away taxpayer money by funding an experiment involving a shrimp on a miniature treadmill. Claims circulated on Fox News and other right wing media outlets that the "shrimp on a treadmill" cost upwards of half a million dollars.
In reality, the original treadmill was built for less than $50. A later, fancier treadmill for about a thousand. The treadmills were a tiny part of a much broader experiment.
The story about shrimp on a treadmill had far greater endurance than the actual shrimp. In fact—as Eric Kleefeld of Media Matters for America first reported—this story was still running in at least three separate Fox News segments this past Thursday in order to slam increased discretionary spending under the Biden administration.
"Do you know that it cost taxpayers close to $700,000?," asked Fox Business host Stuart Varney of the shrimp run.
Outnumbered host Harris Faulkner said the experiment had spent "millions of your taxpayer dollars" on a crustacean gym.
"Not since the days of the shrimp on a treadmill," balked Fox host Neil Cavuto, "have we seen pork barrel spending this out of control. The big question is can we afford it?"
Again, none of those increasingly stratospheric price tags are true, yet similar segments continued on the network until at least Friday afternoon.
The network was mocked for trotting out the story yet again.
honestly, for as much as fox news is obsessed with the treadmill shrimp, i am obsessed with their obsession https://t.co/RtoPAe1ssu— Bobby Lewis (@Bobby Lewis)1620419395.0
ok so even if it was true it's such an old not really relevant story why do they use it as if it's something happ… https://t.co/ikaWmGd4Ec— 🇵🇷🏴☠️Moomoof 🖤🏴 (@🇵🇷🏴☠️Moomoof 🖤🏴)1620419627.0
Blast from the past! https://t.co/dMIJ1g4adF— IsWacky (@IsWacky)1620420238.0
It's that time of the year again https://t.co/sQX1FbsHqj— Jared Holt (@Jared Holt)1620420977.0
@mmfa This story never dies regardless how many times it’s disproven by facts. “Silly-sounding science” is a genre all its own.— Chris Carter (@Chris Carter)1620418656.0
@mmfa Well the good news is later tonight when some sloppy drunk is screaming in the street about shrimp treadmills… https://t.co/q3Ft2vn5C6— Reality of It All (@Reality of It All)1620417940.0
Spending $47 to see a shrimp run on a tiny treadmill? Priceless.
@mmfa Also, you know, scientific research, exploration and discovery is a public good— DogDadBod (@DogDadBod)1620421020.0
@mmfa That's a real good use of $47. I think the numbskulls at Fox News should learn something from that..— Baseball Season DustBunny (Go Mariners!) (@Baseball Season DustBunny (Go Mariners!))1620423322.0
@mmfa Either way.. Money well spent!— Sully (@Sully)1620417540.0
Unlike their beloved shrimp, Fox News seems to be running in circles with this long-debunked story.