Jewish World Review Oct. 3, 2003 / 7 Tishrei, 5764
Iraqi Porkhttp://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | "Heaven only knows what kind of pork is going to be in this bill," said Vinnie the Number Cruncher, my gray-haired accountant.
"What are you talking about, Vinnie?"
"Kid, the president requested $87 billion in emergency spending to support rebuilding activities in Iraq and the ongoing war on terror. The Senate Appropriations Committee just passed the bill and now we're waiting for the House version."
"Well, our esteemed members of Congress never miss an opportunity to slip goodies into spending bills. Heaven only knows what kind of pork projects we'll find when this one is said and done."
"But that request has nothing to do with pet projects."
"So na´ve, kid. Look, don't you remember a year ago when the anti-terrorism bill was passed? Its purpose was to fund projects that will protect America against terrorist attacks, but our legislators saw it as an opportunity to line up at the pork trough."
"You're kidding me."
"According to Citizens Against Government Waste, the president asked for $27 billion but Congress ballooned his request to $31 billion. When the bill passed, it included all kinds of goodies, such as $11 million for New England fisheries, $2.5 million to map coral reefs in Hawaii, and $2 million for the Smithsonian worm collection."
"I guess worms need protection from terrorists, too."
"Well, another major phase in the war on terrorism brought us into Iraq. We can debate whether or not that was the right move, but no one can debate that Congress saw it as a another opportunity to fund pork."
"That $75 billion bill was supposed to spend $63 billion on the war, $8 billion on foreign aid and humanitarian funding, and $4 billion more on homeland security. What it wasn't supposed to do was fund a $1.4 million dog kennel at an Air Force Base in Alaska or spend $13.6 million for a fitness center at the Randolph Air Force Base."
"So here we are again, kid. We've got a doozey of a situation in Iraq. We're working with the Iraqis to help them build a democracy from scratch and no matter how you cut it, that's going to cost a lot of dough."
"I hear estimates in the $200 billion range."
"That's right, kid, and to keep the ball rolling, the president has requested an additional $87 billion. Most of that is to support our military, which is in bad need of new supplies, training and other items to keep them as safe as possible in a very hostile place. But $20 billion of it is supposed to build a new infrastructure to help get the Iraqi economy on its feet as quickly as possible."
"And the Senate Appropriations Committee finally approved this request?"
"Just last week, kid. Senate Democrats did all they could to stall the request - in a Democracy there should be some debate about what we do and what we spend - but the fact is that the longer they could stall the request, the more time both Democrats and Republicans would have to sneak in their goodies. You can be sure that the House Appropriations Committee is looking for pork opportunities on that spending request as we speak."
"You're getting cynical in your old age, Vinnie."
"It ain't cynicism, kid, it's experience. You'd think with America being at war - with our deficit at record levels - that Congress would abandon business as usual to do what's best for America and the world, but that ain't the case."
"Tell me it isn't so, Vinnie."
"Kid, Citizens Against Government Waste says Congress porked out at record levels this year. They packed 9,362 wasteful spending projects into the budget at a cost of $22.5 billion to taxpayers. That's enough dough to cover the President's initial request for rebuilding Iraq."
"The fact is Congress has wasted $162 billion on pork since 1991. With that kind of dough, we could rebuild a lot of countries. But I guess America has more important priorities."
"I don't know about you, but I'm happy those worms at the Smithsonian are living in a $2 million pad."
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
09/26/03: They would not leave