Michio Kaku is a famous theoretical physicist. In a very interesting interview he recounts why the Large Hadron Collider is outside of Geneva, not the U.S.:
Well, some people ask the question, why are the European countries building the Large Hadron Collider? Are we losing the edge? What about an American machine. Well, hey. Let's be frank about it. We had our chance and we blew it. Back in the 1990's, President Ronald Reagan and others had a vision. Why not create the largest colossal atom smasher outside the city of Dallas. Well everything was all set, funding was initiated, but in 1993 the machine was cancelled. A machine, a supercollider many times bigger then the Hadron Collider outside Geneva, Switzerland.
Well, what happened? Many things happened, but on the last day of hearings in Congress, one Congressman asked a physicist, "Are we going to find God with your machine? If so, I will vote for it." Well, the poor physicist didn't know what to say. So, he collected his thoughts and said, "We will find the Higgs Boson." Well, you could almost hear all the jaws hit the floor of the United States Congress. $11 billion for another goddamned sub-atomic particle. Well, the role was taken a few days later and the machine was cancelled. Congress gave us $1 billion to dig this gigantic hole in the ground outside Dallas, they cancelled the machine, and they gave us a second billion dollars to fill up the hole. I can't think of anything more stupid than giving us $2 billion to dig a hole and to fill it up again. But hey, that's the government.
Yes, ex post, that was stupid. But I can think of something more stupid: spending $10 billion--$9 billion net--to finish a project if it had a marginal benefit of a lot less than $9 billion.
However, I loved the story of the 2.3 million volt accelerator and his mom.