Jewish World Review Dec. 27, 2003 / 1 Teves, 5764
"Kid, I know it's the holiday season but their generosity is still astounding," said Vinny the Number Cruncher, my gray-haired
"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."
"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
"What's an earmark?"
"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
"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
"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
"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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© 2003, Tom Purcell