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Jewish World Review August 16, 2002 /8 Elul, 5762

Tom Purcell

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Consumer Reports

Ah, the $izzle of anti-terrorist pork | My accountant Vinnie the Number Cruncher always gets agitated when he talks about pork.

"They're having a good time with our money again, kid," my gray-haired accountant said to me.

"You're referring to President Bush's threat last week to hold back $5 billion in homeland security spending because it is packed with pork?" I said.

"Bingo, kid. That $28 billion anti-terrorism bill is loaded with it. According to Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), the bill includes $11 million for economic assistance to New England fisheries, $3 million for the drilling of wells in New Mexico, $6 million for plant and cattle genome sequencing"

"What the heck is cattle genome sequencing?"

"The cattle industry is probably looking to clone Dolly the Cow, only they want to do it on our dime. But here's a better one: $2 million in the anti-terrorism bill will fund an alcohol storage facility to house the Smithsonian's worm collection."

"Sounds like some kind of worm speakeasy, Vinnie."

"It is, kid, but worms aren't the only ones partying with taxpayer funds. A California Economic Development Agency is getting dough for a mobile animal slaughter processing unit."

"What would an economic development agency want with a mobile animal slaughter processing unit?"

"Beats the heck out of me, kid. Maybe they're grilling up road kill and selling it at their highway barbecue stand. But funding such silliness isn't odd at all when you consider we're also paying $2.5 million to map coral reefs in Hawaii, $50 million to renovate the National Animal Disease Laboratory and $43 million to keep Amtrak on track."

"Vinnie, I can't believe Congress would pack a bill intended to fight terrorism with so many items that have nothing to do with terrorism."

"Kid, you're getting kind of old to be so naive. Look, Congress has always loved to blow money on pork, and they'll slip it into any bill that they can."

"What exactly is pork, Vinnie?"

"According to CAGQ, an item is considered pork if it meets the following criteria: It is requested by only one chamber of Congress; it's not specifically authorized; it's not competitively awarded; it's not requested by the President; it greatly exceeds the President's budget request or the previous year's funding; it's not the subject of congressional hearings; and it serves only a local or special interest."

"In other words, pork is a sneaky way for a member of Congress to use our tax dollars to buy favor and votes in his or her district."

"That's right, kid, and the practice is really costly. CAGW says that in the 2002 budget, our appropriators slipped 8,341 pork projects into the 13 annual appropriations bills, an increase of 32 percent over the prior year's total of 6,333 projects."

"You're kidding me, Vinnie!"

"The cost of these projects for 2002 is $20.1 billion, or 9 percent more than last year's total of $18.5 billion. Since 1991, Congress has blown a total of $140 billion on pork spending."

"Vinnie, it really irks me to see Democrats out there blaming Bush's tax cuts on the deficit, when it is wasteful spending that is the real cause."

"Your right on the money, kid. If the Congress eliminated all the pork in this year's budget, we could put a nice dent in reducing the deficit. And that $20 billion savings on pork could go a long way towards funding our war on terrorism."

"But Congress isn't going to cut the pork, is it Vinnie?"

"That's right, kid. Back in May they passed the Farm Security Act which had little to do with protecting our food supply and everything to do with showering $180 billion in largesse on farm-state voters. The fact is, both Republicans and Democrats are blowing our dough on their pet projects. Both parties are addicted to pork."

"If they're addicted to such waste, then that makes us enablers, doesn't it, Vinnie?"

"Now you're catching on, kid. Because taxpayers aren't paying attention, we're allowing Congress to blow $200,000 to study urban horticulture, $50,000 for a tattoo removal program in California, and $800,000 for red imported fire ants."

"Now there's unnecessary waste for you, Vinnie."

"What's that, kid?"

"Everyone knows the best way to remove tattoos is with red imported fire ants."

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06/14/02: Contemporary Father's Day: A conversation for the ages
06/07/02: Legal rights for animals?
05/19/02: Advice for prom goers this year: Hold onto your money
05/10/02: Don't take her for granted
05/03/02: Letter to the parents of a tubby teen
04/26/02: Zacarias Moussaoui gets expert legal advice

© 2002, Tom Purcell