Bringing Home the Bacon
By: Greg C. Reeson
In a July 17 piece on Townhall.com, columnist Robert Novak wrote about a press release issued by Senator Joe Lieberman that outlined $2.5 billion in future transportation projects for Connecticut, the state he has represented in Washington since 1988. According to Novak, Senator Lieberman, who is facing an unexpected challenge from Senatorial candidate Ned Lamont, is trying to stress to voters just how successful he has been in directing federal tax dollars, in the form of pork-barrel spending projects, to his constituents back home.
Unfortunately, Senator Lieberman is more the rule than the exception when it comes to wasting federal funds. Each year, the 535 men and women who make up the United States Congress send billions of tax dollars to their home states in order to further their own political careers and enhance their prospects for remaining in office. Pork barrel spending continues to grow with each appropriations bill and most Americans have no idea what their hard-earned tax dollars are being used for.
Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that tracks government spending, publishes an annual Congressional Pig Book detailing the various pork-barrel projects that members of Congress slip into federal spending bills. The 2006 edition, available at cagw.org, outlines 375 special projects worth over $3 billion as â€œâ€¦the most egregious and blatant examples of pork.â€ The book covers only a fraction of the almost 10,000 special ventures that our Senators and Representatives included in 11 different Fiscal Year 2006 pieces of legislation, at a cost to tax payers of $29 billion.
CAGW labels a project as pork if it â€œâ€¦designates funds for a specific purpose in circumvention of the normal procedures for budget review.â€ As CAGW points out, these projects are usually added to large spending bills mere hours before a congressional vote is scheduled, preventing thorough review because of limited available time.
Spending included in the latest edition of the Pig book includes $13.5 million for the International Fund for Ireland, which, believe it or not, includes funding for the World Toilet Summit. Thereâ€™s $500,000 for the Arctic Winter Games in Alaska, conveniently slipped into a defense spending bill by Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ted Stevens. According to the 2006 Arctic Winter Games web site, the games provide â€œâ€¦our youth an International opportunity to participate and showcase their talent.â€ How that relates to our national defense I havenâ€™t quite figured out yet.
Thereâ€™s also $500,000 for the Sparta Teapot Museum in North Carolina, $100,000 for the Richard Steele Boxing Club in Nevada, $500,000 for the Museum of Glass in Washington, $1 million for the Water free Urinal Conservation Initiative, and $5.6 million for the Gallo Center, which studies the effects of alcohol and drug abuse on the brain (also included in a defense spending bill).
Pork-barrel projects, which average $30.55 per capita nationally, are disproportionately funneled to those states with high-ranking members of congress on appropriations committees. Alaska, home state of former Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, received $489.87 per capita during FY 2006, while West Virginiaâ€™s Robert Byrd, Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, directed $131.58 per capita to his home state.
Pork barrel spending has spun rapidly out of control, with members of both major parties guilty of wanton waste and shameless self-promotion. Every citizen should be offended by the actions of our elected representatives and every citizen should read CAGWâ€™s report on pork barrel spending. Special projects designed to do nothing more than increase the political capital of members of congress must be brought under control, and the tremendous waste of federal tax revenues must stop now. Despite the fact that this nation is at war, and precious federal tax dollars are critically needed to support that effort, our Senators and Representatives disregard what is best for this country, waste limited revenue, and concern themselves only with maintaining their power and prestige so that they can â€œBring Home the Bacon.â€
Greg Reeson is an Army Officer and freelance writer living in Fort Lee, VA. His writings have appeared in The New Media Journal, The Land of the Free, The Veteranâ€™s Voice, The American Daily, The American Chronicle, Associated Content, and Opinion Editorials.com.
More of his writings can be found at www.associatedcontent.com/user/12407/greg_reeson.html
Greg C. Reeson