The group Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has put out its annual “Pig Book”. It’s a summary of the worst offenders of wasteful government spending, at taxpayer’s expense.
The culprits come from both sides of the aisle.
The outrage of millions of taxpayers following the $700 billion bank bailout and the $787 billion stimulus bill did not stop Congress from passing and President Obama from signing a bloated $410 billion Omnibus Appropriations Act in March. With the subsequent approval of the President’s budget, the national debt will triple over the next 10 years. That leaves plenty of opportunities for pork to remain pervasive in the nation’s capital.
The fiscal year 2009 appropriations process was unique as three of the appropriations bills (Defense, Homeland Security and Military Construction) were passed and signed on September 30, 2008 under a different Congress and President. But the change in control in the White House did not change the culture of corruption that surrounds pork-barrel spending.
Among the many story lines that played out during the crafting and eventual passing of the Omnibus Act was that former Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) had his name eliminated from the nine appropriations bills in the Omnibus, yet a deceased member, former members, and Cabinet members remained. If the new Congress had time to scrub Sen. Stevens’ name from the Omnibus, they surely had plenty of time to scrub the bill of all earmarks.
The latest installment of Citizens Against Government Waste’s (CAGW) 19-year exposé of pork-barrel spending includes $3,800,000 for the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy; $1,900,000 for the Pleasure Beach water taxi service project; and $1,791,000 for swine odor and manure management research.
In fiscal year 2009, Congress stuffed 10,160 projects into the 12 appropriations bills worth $19.6 billion. The projects represent a 12.5 percent decrease from the 11,610 projects in fiscal year 2008. The $19.6 billion is a 14 percent increase over the fiscal year 2008 total of $17.2 billion, belying claims of reduced spending. Total pork identified by CAGW since 1991 adds up to $290 billion.
Alaska once again led the nation with $322 per capita ($221 million). The runners up were Hawaii with $235 per capita ($302 million) and North Dakota with $222 per capita ($142 million).
Although this is the second year of so-called transparency, which requires every earmark to be identified with the requesting member of Congress, the Defense Appropriations Act demonstrated that there is still ample opportunity for spending shenanigans. There were 142 anonymous projects worth $6.4 billion in the defense bill, which was 6.6 percent of the projects and 57 percent of the cost.
In total, out of the 10,160 projects in the 2009 Congressional Pig Book there were 9,939 requested projects worth $11.8 billion and 221 anonymous projects worth $7.8 billion.
The 341 projects, totaling $4.2 billion, in this year’s Congressional Pig Book Summary symbolize the most egregious and blatant examples of pork. As in previous years, all of the items in the Congressional Pig Book Summary meet at least one of CAGW’s seven criteria, but most satisfy at least two:
Requested by only one chamber of Congress;
Not specifically authorized;
Not competitively awarded;
Not requested by the President;
Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;
Not the subject of congressional hearings; or
Serves only a local or special interest.
Just a few of the outrageous examples:
$2,192,000 by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee member Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), then-House appropriator JamesWalsh (R-N.Y.), and Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-N.Y.) for the Center for Grape Genetics in Geneva. New York’s wine and grape industries generate $6 billion annually in sales. Taxpayers should not have been soaked for this money.
$1,791,000 by Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee member TomHarkin (D-Iowa) for swine odor and manure management research in Ames. According to the Agriculture Research Service’s website, the purpose of the research is to “generate and integrate knowledge for evaluation and development of new management practices that minimize nutrient excretion, malodorous emissions, and the release of pathogens into the environment as well as have a positive impact on animal health.” In an effort to defend his earmark on the Senate floor, Sen. Harkin summed up its ridiculous nature succinctly: “I’m sure that David Letterman will probably be talking about it and Jay Leno will be talking about it, we’ve got $1.8 million to study why pigs smell.”
$3,000,000 by Senate CJS Appropriations Subcommittee member Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) for the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks to help make data received from NASA satellite images more accessible to the public. Apparently the two senators have not heard of NASA TV. According to the NASA website, “The NASA TV Public and Educational channels are ‘free-to-air,’ meaning your cable or satellite service provider can carry them at no cost.” Interested viewers should contact their local cable or satellite service provider to get NASA TV, and ask the senators for a rebate of their share of that $3 million.
$700,000 by Senate CJS Appropriations Subcommittee member Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green to complete a monitoring system that will collect real-time weather observations through a statewide grid of stations in Kentucky. Apparently the Weather Channel is not sufficient.
190,000,000 for 33 projects by Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), including: $23,000,000 for the Hawaii Federal Healthcare Network, $9,900,000 for the U.S.S. Missouri (which costs $16 for an adult to tour and receives 100,000 annual visitors), and $3,600,000 for intelligent decision exploration. That is something many members of Congress should be doing.
The rest is here: