Does Congress really want to save money?

There's room for wondering in view of this week's decision by a House-Senate conference committee to spend $500,000 to renovate the home where retired band leader Lawrence Welk was born.The decision has left taxpayers asking what's next? Earmark other public funds to renovate Guy Lombardo's speedboat? Or to restore Artie Shaw's wedding tuxedo?

But then such boondoggles are no worse than the scores of costly studies that Congress commissions each year.

Consider some of the 200 studies listed in the House and Senate farm bills. Then consider how many of those studies duplicate each other.

In the Senate bill alone, four separate studies are required on trade assistance. Likewise, three separate studies are being required on the effects of global warming on crop production.

Understandably fed up with so many costly and overlapping studies, Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas has the right idea - up to a point. He wants Congress to stop mandating studies by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Instead, the USDA would be able to undertake a few selected studies of its own choosing - at a saving of up to $100 million.

The Dole plan is fine as far as it goes. But it doesn't go nearly far enough. Instead of applying it only to the USDA, how about extending it throughout the entire federal establishment?

Then how about undertaking a study that's obviously much-needed - a study of the strange decision-making process that led a deficit-plagued federal government to spend public money in an effort to turn a band leader's birthplace into a tourist trap?