Jewish World Review April 25, 2002 / 14 Iyar, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | About this time each year, Tom Schatz, president of the nonpartisan Citizens Against Government Waste -- an organization of 600,000 frustrated patriots seeking better government -- regales us with the latest tales of Washington foolishness. Much of it is a compendium of ludicrous government overspending, most on needless local projects invented by members of Congress intent on spending their way to re-election -- apparently the major goal of their government service.
We label these projects -- from $137,000 to study the sex life of the Japanese quail to $900,000 to restore a German U-Boat in Chicago -- as "pork," a reference to the common concept of "bringing home the bacon." It was once a comic, small-time, petty cash kind of congressional connivance. But today, the pork misadventure has grown into a big-time spoil system, reaching an estimated $21 billion a year and growing.
To spend money, Congress requires the approval of one of the 13 appropriations committees in each chamber. But these "appropriators," 93 strong in the House and Senate, often become what many believe are the least ethical members of Congress, abusing their power by setting aside huge amounts of extra money for their district or state, often ignoring the national need.
Getting a seat on an appropriations committee is a license to take money from "me and thee," and give it to the folks back home, who show their appreciation at election time. We end up inadvertently supporting candidates around the country that we don't know, or may even dislike. Talk about campaign finance reform.
Chortling congresspeople take advantage of voters' lack of sophistication. They please the homeowners with federal largesse, knowing that taxpayers don't realize that their money is also being spent in 49 other states and 434 other congressional districts on projects in which they have no interest and which add little, if anything , to the commonweal. Even those few projects that make sense are local, and not national, in value.
In addition, the money is not spread around equally. The Princes of Pork -- Sen. Richard Byrd, D-W.V., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee; Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, ranking member of that committee; and Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, represent three underpopulated states that walked away with over $1.2 billion in federal pork money. This was hardly the intention of the Founding Fathers, for whom "pork" was meant for a Sunday dinner and not for such an extravagant idiocy as $384,000 for a federally paid census of cats and dogs in Ventura County, Calif.
States such as Connecticut, which pay much more into Washington than they get back, took in only $20 in pork per person, while Alaska amassed $714 -- enough porcine fat to keep them warm all Arctic winter.
Some of the beauties from this year's budget include:
The first step is to make members of Congress realize that when they engage in porking, they are involved in unethical behavior -- that sending money home to mama is not patriotic. Federal taxpayer money that is spent on their home district or state is not being spent where it may be needed most, especially today with the national terrorist emergency.
If we can induce a sense of shame in politicians -- admittedly a difficult task -- that porking is merely cheap vote buying with Other People's Money, then perhaps Congress will see the selfishness and self-aggrandizement involved in porking.
Should that day arrive, then there are at least two things that can be done:
04/11/02: He's no American
04/11/02: He's no American