If you ever lie awake at night pondering what Uncle Sam is doing with all that money he siphoned out of your financial gas tank, wonder no more. Citizens Against Government Waste has just released this year’s edition of the “Pig Book,” a messy romp through the sty of federal pork-barrel spending.
“In fiscal year 2001,” write “Pig Book” authors David E. Williams and Kerrie N. Rezac in the summary introduction, “appropriators worshipped at the altar of pork-barrel spending like never before. Just like the apes clawing at the mysterious monolith at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey, appropriators saw the mountain of money created by the budget surplus and grabbed so many of the taxpayers’ dollars that they created a new epic, 2001: A Pork Odyssey.”
Everybody say “Oink!”
The porcine tally for 2001 makes it pretty clear why you didn’t bring more bacon home this past year. Butchering common sense and running any respect for common decency through the meat grinder, congressional appropriators chalked up 6,333 separate pork-barrel projects, totaling $18.5 billion.
Lest you dismiss that figure as smallish when placed in the context of the entire budget, keep in mind that this totals a 297 percent increase in pork dollars since 1997 — a 47 percent jump since fiscal year 2000. Total pork sniffed out by swineherds at CAGW since 1991: $119 billion.
Just think of that when some pink-cheeked, pig-jowled senator mumbles something about not being able to afford a tax cut this year. When he does that, and he will, ask him how we could afford this swill:
It’s a bug’s life: Wheat sawflies in Montana got a big loaf in 2001: $332,000-worth of taxpayer funded attention to study the winged menace. And not one to be left out of the entomological spree, Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., secured $5,000,000 for an insect-rearing lab in his state.
We’re not kidding: What about rearing at-risk children? Forget midnight basketball. The answer can be found in this little item: $250,000 to pay for culinary classes for troubled youth in Miami-Dade County, Fla. Dr. Spock would be proud.
Don your aqualung: Six states, including the landlocked, arid Arizona, will be divvying up $4,177,000 for shrimp studies; $49 million has gone to this research since 1985. Alaska is breaking out the bubbly to celebrate $645,000 for research of “alternative salmon products,” and while $450,000 is slated to research Pacific ornamental tropical fish, another $1,000,000 is going to study Bering Sea Crabs.
Also returning to the teat was Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who landed $750,000 for developing aquaculture products and marketing in West Virginia, making a grand total of $2,850,000 that Byrd has scored for this research since 1998.
Not-so green acres: Sickly onions in Vidalia County, Ga., are sapping up the soil with smiles, since House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Member Jack Kingston, R-Ga., secured $250,000 to research disease in the tear-jerkers. Previous pork for Vidalia onions has gone to “pungency testing” and since 1998 has totaled $534,000. But don’t shed a tear, folks; that the Vidalia onion only grows in Kingston’s congressional district is of no real consequence, right?
Cotton ginning research sure got a jolt in the arm in FY 2001. House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Joe Skeen, R-N.M., wrangled $900,000 to study the technology in New Mexico — just, by the way, as polyester is making a comeback. That’s some thinking, Mr. Skeen.
Grain of truth: Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Member Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, D-S.C. — who, as you’ll no doubt remember, warned the nation some years back about there being “too much consuming going on out there” — secured $250,000 for the Rice Museum in his state. How that’s not “too much consuming,” I’m still trying to figure out.
And rest easy, beer drinkers; $200,000 has been allocated to study the health benefits of barley.
Road to nowhere: The National Automotive Center is revving its engines after a budget allocation of $12,500,000. NAC’s star project: The “smart truck,” which one senator jibed was not only “capable of heating up a burrito, but will also be able to perform advanced calculus while quoting Kirkegaard.” Thank goodness.
Alaskan pork king, Republican Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens no doubt should have been reading Kirkegaard. Instead he was busy securing $400,000 for a parking lot and pedestrian safety access in Talkeetna, Alaska — never mind that the town has only a population of 300.
If you build it, they will pay: Always on his best behavior, Stevens was also keen to do his good deeds — $1,250,000 for Aleutian Pribilof church repairs. Other symptoms of a mass Edifice Complex affecting the Congress: $2,600,000 to restore the Meridian, Miss., Opera House; $200,000 for a barns project; $175,000 for the Wheeler Block Building; and $600,000 to fix up the Apostles Island lighthouse. No mention yet of fixing up my house.
Let the games begin: Seems that local weather forecasters aren’t enough for Olympic Games junkies in Utah. For the 2002 Winter Games, the University of Utah nabbed $590,000 to make weather predictions; apparently, “Likely chance of snow” isn’t going to cut it.
Santa’s little larcenist: What do you know? There’s that Stevens again, this time nailing $176,000 for the Reindeer Herder’s Association.
All that jive: When certain members of the Senate listened to jazz legend Charles Mingus’ great tune, “Better Get Hit in Yo’ Soul,” they must have misread the title as “Better Get Hit in Yo’ Wallet,” because they sent Memphis $1,500,000 to construct the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Get down! CAGW was quick to point out that Seattle managed to privately finagle funds for its Jimi Hendrix Museum, no dipping in the pork barrel there. Instead of socking it to the taxpayers, maybe Memphis should have asked Seattle how it’s done, but the oinkers seem trapped in some sort of pork-induced purple haze.
Odds and ends: $1,400,000 to improve the Secor Garden in Toledo, Ohio; $500,000 for “Friendly House” in Davenport, Iowa; $1,000,000 for the Gorilla Forest Exhibition in Louisville, Ky.; $750,000 to split between renovations at the Waipahu Community Association and development of the Waipahu festival market fair. All this while Bethany College gets $400,000 for more work on its “health and wellness” center, and a documentary film, “The Appalachians,” scores $210,000 to help with production costs.
If you’re wondering why there’s little concern for your production costs and all of this has you screaming like a stuck pig, then make sure to bleat your frustration and anger in the ear of your congressman.
Tell him — as he and his cronies get set to wallow in deception and spin about Bush’s tax cut proposal — that if he can’t find it in the goodness of his heart to figure out a way for the federal government to absorb a tax cut, he can certainly find it in the pork-padded federal budget. Yank out the waste, and there’s plenty of absorption room.
While animal-rights activists may label it “cruelty to pigs,” fear not.
Swine is not an endangered species on Capitol Hill — either hidden in the lines of the federal budget or the offices themselves.