Pork Barrel

The following is a list of some of the recent pork barrel spending our Congress has made, just a tiny fraction of a $3 trillion dollar annual federal budget; it is money that arguably either could have been spent better elsewhere or not at all.

$14 billion on Boston’s Big Dig, a 3.5 miles stretch of underground highway (that leaks water and has already resulted in the death of at least one motorist because of shoddy construction). $500,000 granted to a Teapot Museum in North Carolina. $1 million (sponsored by Hillary) to a Woodstock Rock festival.

$3 million to an organization called the First Tee (promoting character development and life enhancing values thru the game of golf, uh huh, I am sure). $500,000 to purchase 21 retired railroad cabooses for a proposed “Caboose Hotel” in Titusville, Pa.

A friend of mine has one in his back yard, he bought it for $2,100.00 from the now defunct Santa Fe Railroad. $750,000 for an Asian Equities Research Center in Kansas City, Missouri. (Good information where people in Missouri can make sound investments) $150,000 earmarked to “fix all the plumbing in his district’s Italian restaurants (this one needs a little explaining, don’t-cha think?). $800,000 to form a study on why children do not like to eat vegetables (I don’t like squash, fried or otherwise, I will take $50,000 please).

I am sure that you get the picture by now, there are even more, we have just scratched the surface. A million here and a million there, why, the first thing you know, we will be talking about some REAL money. My favorite, the absolute best, has to be the bridge to no place. Alaska’s infamous $223 million “bridge to nowhere.” Senator Ted Stevens pushed this through in 2005 to connect the town of Ketchikan (population 8,000) to a nearby tiny, sparsely populated island. The people who lived there had a ferryboat service and were quite pleased with it. The project was killed after a public outcry.

None of the people actually wanted the project; it was the Senator who wanted it.

Representative Jo Ann Emerson, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, sent some $30 million home to her constituents in 2007. In contrast, Reps. Russ Carnahan and John Shimkus, two lawmakers who don’t happen to sit on the appropriations panel, landed only $1.6 million for their districts. This is not a meritocracy but rather an aristocracy of earmark kings and queens. The absolute king of Pork Barrel is a Senator from Pennsylvania; he pocketed a cool “half of a billion” for his state this year.

Nancy Pelosi’s pledge to reform has apparently been forgotten, (they all seem to have “selective Amnesia” once they are elected). She sent home to her district in San Francisco, $100 million in earmarks. $300,000 of that total was to a teacher-training program, which didn’t even make it there. Instead the money was diverted to San Francisco’s Exploratorium Science Museum. I have no idea if that is illegal, but surely has the appearance of being a tad bit shady.

In 1796, James Madison, then serving in Congress, proposed a nationwide system of postal roads, which he said would be a way to improve the nations infrastructure while allowing states to share in the federal government’s largesse. In response, Thomas Jefferson, who was running for president at the time, made a case against pork barrel spending that budget hawks are essentially still making today.

The roads project, Jefferson said, would quickly degenerate into an “eternal scramble” by members of Congress to see “who can get the most money wasted in their state, and they will always get most, who are meanest.”

$9 billion In 1995 and $29 billion in 2005. Pork barrel spending is down, believe it or not. From a peak of 13,997 in 2005 to 2,658 last year, according to at least one count. But it is still out control and it should be stopped. So in this election year, I believe it is appropriate to ask that “old age question” that gets asked every election year.

Whatever happened to all those people we elected on a promise to eliminate wasteful federal spending and gave us assurances that they would cut back on spending once elected? Where are those bums now? Might want to take than into consideration next time you go to the polls.

The Big Dogs eat first. The rest of us can have the scraps that fall off the table I guess.

***