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Jewish World Review Dec. 27, 2003 / 1 Teves, 5764

Tom Purcell

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Holiday Pork

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | "Kid, I know it's the holiday season but their generosity is still astounding," said Vinny the Number Cruncher, my gray-haired accountant.


"Whose generosity, Vinny?"


"The Republicans in Congress, kid. They packed their entire Christmas wish list into the Omnibus spending bill that the House passed a few weeks ago."


"Omnibus spending bill?"


"Kid, the way it works is this: every year there are 13 separate appropriation bills that Congress must pass and the president must sign to fund all the activities within the federal government. Well, because money is involved, our politicians spend most of their time haggling and the bills never get agreed upon in a timely manner."


"OK."


"So what our elected leaders like to do is combine a whole bunch of the spending bills into one massive omnibus bill. This year, they combined seven of the 13 appropriations bills into an omnibus bill to fund the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury and Veterans Affairs and the District of Columbia throughout 2004."


"The District of Columbia?"


"Yeah, kid, the American taxpayers have been pumping money into that city for years. In any event, the bigger the omnibus bill, the more opportunities our esteemed lawmakers have to pack the bill with pork."


"But our lawmakers already packed billions of wasteful projects into the Homeland Security bill. They packed even more into the bill to fund the rebuilding of Iraq and Afghanistan. And now they're packing this omnibus bill, too!"


"You got it, kid. The omnibus bill was passed by the House a few weeks ago, but the Senate won't do their bit until January. So far, the 2,500-page bill is crammed with $373 billion in spending. And the real beauty is that it contains more than 7,000 special earmarks."


"What's an earmark?"


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"Kid, an earmark is congress-speak for special projects and pork. For example, there are earmarks for Trout Genome Mapping, termite research and renovation of a historic Coca-Cola building in Macon, Georgia."


"We're funding a Coca-Cola building!"


"I'm just getting warmed up, kid. There's LOVE Social Services in Fairbanks, Alaska, the Women's World Cup, and renovation of a farmer's market in Davenport, Iowa."


"But the appropriations bill are supposed to fund government operations. None of these things have anything to do with government operations."


"Theyhave to do with getting votes, kid, and they're going to be costly. The Heritage Foundation estimates the pork-laden omnibus package will increase discretionary spending by 9 percent in 2004. That's on top of the increases of 13 percent and 12 percent the two prior years."


"That's a lot of spending growth, Vinny, but please tell me most of it has to do with the increased costs of fighting the war on terror?"


"I wish it were so kid, but it isn't. According to the Heritage people, defense and the 911 attacks have accounted for less than half of all new spending since 2001. The majority of new spending is pork."


"But how much spending are we talking really?"


"Kid, let me put things in perspective. The Heritage people say total federal spending in 2003 topped $20,000 per household for the first time since World War II. But in 2004, that expense will go up to $21,000 per household."


"But I thought Republicans with Republicans in control of the House, Senate and the White House, spending would be controlled. Didn't Republicans used to say that it was the Democrats who liked to spend like drunken sailors?"


"So na´ve, kid. In case you haven't noticed, the Republicans are spending money in a way that would make the Clinton people blush."


"There's nothing we can do to put the brakes on the wasteful spending?"


"You can write your congressmen, kid. But good luck. It's the holiday season and Republicans are in a generous mood. Of course, I can't blame them. I'm generous, too, when I'm spending somebody else's money."

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Up


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04/21/03: Explaining Democracy to the Iraqis
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04/04/03: War humor
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12/31/02: They provide unending joy to those who are wise enough to let them in
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09/20/02: Are SUV drivers are the new GOPers?
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07/26/02: Study gives women permission not to hide their emotions
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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
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04/26/02: Zacarias Moussaoui gets expert legal advice

© 2003, Tom Purcell