Magazine article Insight on the News

And This Little Piggy Went to Congress

Magazine article Insight on the News

And This Little Piggy Went to Congress

Article excerpt

It's the horrible hangover after the big party in Washington, as the full fiscal implications of last fall's election-season spending bender begin to become evident, albeit months later.

Though the bash was over months ago -- and the 106th Congress, in fact, already has embarked on a new budget cycle, pledging a return to sobriety (but plainly salivating at the new bingeing opportunities presented by the so-called budget "surplus") -- the bill for last fall's assault on fiscal restraint finally has been itemized in Citizens Against Government Waste's, or CAGW's, 1999 Congressional Pig Book Summary.

It's an annual tally of what CAGW calls "procedural pork," denoting nearly 3,000 individual spending projects worth $12 billion, many of dubious value to the taxpaying commonweal, that were larded into last fall's catchall spending bill without going through the established budget process. That's an increase of 695 pork-barrel projects over the previous fiscal year's total: a jump in numbers largely explained by an incumbent's need to curry favor with constituents in an election year.

That fact is further underscored by last year's sharp increase in the number of spending projects not included in either House or Senate spending bills, but which were added, ex nihilo, by the lucky few who sit on conference committees. These committees are supposed to hammer out compromises between House and Senate spending bills. But they also provide their members with a golden opportunity to abuse the system by adding new spending projects at their own discretion. In fiscal 1998, only 3 percent of the pork identified by CAGW was "added in conference"; in fiscal 1999, the total leapt to 11 percent, or about $1.7 billion. But enough lecturing. Here are a few bacon bits from the 1999 Pig Book:

* Federal research projects that CAGW says benefit narrow agricultural interests include: $5.1 million for wood utilization research; $1 million for the viticulture consortium (to ensure that the U.S. maintains its status as a wine-making superpower?); $220,000 for Lowbush blueberry research in Maine (for which $2 million has been appropriated since 1990); $100,000 for Vidalia onion research in Georgia (brings tears to a taxpayer's eye); and $3.3 million for shrimp aquaculture (a portion of which goes to ... Arizona?);

* $74 million for a space-based laser-development project in the home state of Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Defense member Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama;

* $112. …

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