RUSH COUNTY – I just discovered a very interesting publication called the “Congressional Pig Book.”
It is published by an organization called Citizens Against Government Waste. The Congressional Pig Book contains “pork” projects that are line items in an appropriation bill that designate tax dollars for a specific purpose to bring federal dollars to a representative’s home district. The idea is to bring money to a concentrated area but whose costs are spread among all taxpayers.
The latest edition of the Congressional Pig Book says the cost of pork barrel projects is $15.3 billion dollars. For example, in the Fiscal Year 2019 the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act contains over $1 billion in earmarks for the Army Corps of Engineers that weren’t originally in the Act. Congressmen can add the earmarks without anyone knowing which member of Congress did it! Nice!
To qualify for the Congressional Pig Book a project must meet one of the seven following criteria for wasteful spending: It has to be 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 on the previous year’s funding; not the subject of congressional hearings; or serves only a local or special interest.
That pretty much sounds like a hand-out by a member of Congress with absolutely no review by anybody!
Let’s start with some glaring examples of pork barrel spending. How about $9 million for a fruit fly quarantine program? This amount is an increase of 1,819% in spending from the $469,000 amount for fruit flies in Fiscal Year 2009. This represents the third-largest earmark ever for this purpose. This is also the first amount for fruit fly quarantining in 10 years. No money has been spent, in other words, for a decade on fruit flies. I can’t help but wonder who’s getting rich on the research, eradication, or quarantining of fruit flies.
How about $8,000,000 for the Appalachian Regional Study Commission and the Delta Regional Authority? Your guess is as good as mine about what either group does. One must study something really important in Appalachia and the other must authorize equally important stuff in the Delta Region – wherever that stuff is.
I have found that the ARC was created by Congress in 1965 to “bring the 13 Appalachian states into the mainstream of the American economy, and covers portions of states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and, get ready, New York!
What do you think about $65,000,000 for Pacific coastal salmon recovery? This one is equally easy to understand. The money is to “reverse the declines of Pacific salmon and steelhead, supporting conservation efforts in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska.” I think it’s particularly interesting that Idaho will be getting some of the dough, particularly in light of the fact that the state has no Pacific coastline at all.
It was also noted that the funds are “not optimally targeted…favor certain species and geographic areas over others,” and don’t direct money to programs that have “the greatest need or potential benefit.” Well, that’s pretty obvious, with the exception of Idaho, of course.
I’m for a strong military, but you have to raise an eyebrow on this one: $1,784,500,000 for seven earmarks for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which includes eight more planes for the Air Force, six for the Navy, and two for the Marine Corps. According to the Pig Book, “The acquisition misadventures of the JSF program have been well-documented, as the program has been plagued of persistent issues. In development for 18 years and eight years behind schedule, total acquisition costs now exceed $428 billion, nearly double the initial estimate of $232 billion [dollars].
In 2015 the Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said, “The biggest lesson I have learned from the F-35 is never again should we be flying an aircraft while we’re building it.” Somehow, that lesson would seem to have been obvious from the beginning, but I’m not one of the contractors responsible for building the F-35.
Talk about duplication of effort! $120,000,000 – that’s $120 million – for two earmarks for the National Guard Counter-Drug Program. Of course, nobody seems to have noticed that we already have The Drug Enforcement Administration, which has a budget of $2.3 billion dollars and is already responsible for the same activities.
How about $15 million for “large scale classified electron beam welding?” Or $10 million to “expand manufacturing capability for cold rolled aluminum, or another $10 million for “risk reduction for tungsten defense products?” The Pig Book notes, “The language of the appropriations bill provides no further information regarding the location or purpose of the funding.”
Just briefly, $12 million for aquatic plant control; $7,876,000 for fish passage and fish screens; $13,836,000 for wild horse and burro management. These are just a few highlights of programs getting money.
The sad part about all of this is that these expenditures have much more to do with members of Congress being re-elected than any truly sensible use of our tax dollars.
That’s – 30 – for this week.
Paul W. Barada is a retired Rush County businessman. He may be contacted via this publication at firstname.lastname@example.org.