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

Tom Purcell

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Holiday Pork | "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."


"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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12/19/03: FOUND! The captured-Saddam transcript
12/12/03: Peace, Man
12/05/03: Who are you, Miss Manners?
12/01/03: Joyless, selfish children
11/21/03: Thanksgiving, updated for our times
11/14/03: Hang in there, tubby America, your day in the sun will come
11/07/03: Morale at Veterans' Day
10/31/03: The Big Picture
10/24/03: A sorry bunch
10/17/03: Conversation with a typical poll respondent?
10/10/03: Men and women and brains
10/03/03: Iraqi Pork
09/26/03: They would not leave
09/19/03: A radical idea
09/12/03: Food Guide Pyramid has a "stupidity factor"?
09/05/03: Flag waving and football cheering
08/29/03: People who have it all, too often don't
08/25/03: Attack of the 'virus twits'
08/08/03: Why not have a whole slew of the world's dignitaries and leaders come by to visit you?
08/01/03: Do you really want to live until 500?
07/18/03: "Ain't-my-fault" lawsuits are becoming more creative
07/18/03: The real story never makes for good summertime drama in Washington
07/11/03: Government bureaucrats, not elected officials, are really the ones determining what people and organizations can and can't do
07/03/03: Overworked Americans
06/27/03: The Metrosexual Male
06/20/03: Crime Etiquette in Washington, D.C.
06/13/03: My Father, the Thief and the MGB
06/05/03: An Open Letter to Bill and Hillary
05/30/03: We are a busy people
05/23/03: Liar, Liar
05/16/03: Laffer all the way to the bank
05/09/03: My mother's house
05/02/03: Teaching the Iraqis how to protest
04/25/03: Iraqi TV
04/21/03: Explaining Democracy to the Iraqis
04/11/03: Major increases to the beer tax? That's a cheap shot right to the beer gut
04/04/03: War humor
03/31/03: Dolphins, PETA and the USA
03/21/03: Traffic Wars
03/14/03: Ronald Reagan's St. Patrick's Day
03/03/03: My Family's Tragic Secret: We're French
02/21/03: I'm worried about my people
02/14/03: George Washington Makeover
02/07/03: Making quiet sacrifices
01/24/03: "Gimme the, goo-goo, gah-gah, remote!"
01/21/03: "Misunderestimated"
01/10/03: Republican night life
01/06/03: Exercise pills
12/31/02: They provide unending joy to those who are wise enough to let them in
12/13/02: Hurried Man Syndrome
12/06/02: In DC, snowstorms have important ramifications --- or, at least, they should
11/26/02: Police advertising
11/15/02: An Interview with Osama
11/01/02: How to vote in America
10/25/02: On edge in Washington, D.C
10/11/02: Giving new meaning to "selling your body"
10/04/02: Bush's Angels
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09/20/02: Are SUV drivers are the new GOPers?
09/13/02: Bubba is Dubya's man
09/06/02: The Freedom to Picnic
08/16/02: Ah, the $izzle of anti-terrorist pork
08/09/02: Vacationless prez and gutless Americans
07/26/02: Study gives women permission not to hide their emotions
07/15/02: Patriot food
06/28/02: Eavesdropping on a San Fran classroom
06/21/02: The crowded skies
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

© 2003, Tom Purcell