Pork-Barrel Spending

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) thought last year's spending would be an all-time record, with a preposterous $17.7 billion in inappropriately - inserted pork. This year CAGW predicts even higher pork totals when the final tally is made of the 106th Congress for the fiscal year 2001.

CAGW has so far analyzed 7 of the 13 appropriations bills and has found increases in virtually every bill according to its seven-point criteria for pork. So far these bills (Agriculture, Defense, Energy and Water, Interior, Military Construction, Transportation, and VA/HUD) contain more than 4,400 projects, costing taxpayers $15.9 billion in pork. This year's final tally will easily surpass last year's record of 4,326 projects and $17.7 billion. There is about $85 million more in pork attached to this year's Agriculture appropriation than in fiscal 2001, an increase of 75 percent. Similarly, pork in the Energy and Water appropriation expanded from last year's $569 million to $834 million, up 47 percent. In the Interior bill, an additional $231 million of pork was added, a 70 percent hike. This year there were 100 more pork-barrel items in the Agriculture bill than the year before, 110 more in defense, 158 more in Energy and Water, 159 more in Interior, and 331 more in VA/HUD.

The process has become so careless that many final mark-ups come to the House or Senate floor with hundreds of add-ons, without any advanced copies for review before the vote. In one case this year, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) complained - properly so - that each side had been provided with a single copy of the bill in question, just minutes before the debate.

Leading this feeding frenzy at the trough are Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and the number two Democrat on the committee, Senate Appropriations committee member Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), whose states ranked first and second, respectively, in per capita pork for FY 2001. Sen. Stevens secured $480.3 million for Alaska ($766 per person) and Sen. Inouye secured $474.6 million for Hawaii ($392 per person) in the FY 2001 march to the pork barrel. Per capita pork for Alaska was 30 times the national average, while Hawaii raked in 15 times the per capita national average of $25.52. Sen. Stevens brought home from the FY 2001 battle included: $2,500,000 for a pilot training simulator at the University of Alaska; $1,250,000 for Aleutian Pribilof church repairs; $750,000 for the Ketchikan Wood Technology Center; and $400,000 for a parking lot and pedestrian safety access in Talkeetna (population 300). Sen. Inouye's spoils included: $4,500,000 for the construction of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory facility at Hilo; $2,500,000 for marijuana eradication; and $742,000 for the Native Hawaiian culture and arts program. Sen. Stevens and Sen. Inouye are no strangers to coming in first in the pork barrel derby. Alaska ranked first and Hawaii ranked second in per capita pork in FY 2000 as well.

CAGW calculates that Mississippi, a small state but home to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), has landed $657 million in pork thus far for research projects on shrimp aquaculture, and wood utilization. Alabama, which has one senator and three of its seven representatives on the Appropriations Committees, has so far netted about $249 million. Taxpayers this year will pay $10 million for additions to the Palace of Governors museum in Santa Fe, N.M. Other items include money, swine waste, Vidalia onions and peanut allergies.

West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd (D), the highest ranking Democratic appropriator in the Senate, has secured $194 million for his state and $5.5 million obtained for a new dormitory at the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia.

The July 2000 Porker of the Month has taken this art to a new level. Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), whose home state is hosting the 2002 Winter Games, has wrangled $3.3 million in federal funds to test the athletes for drugs. That means taxpayers are footing the bill for 75 percent of the $4.3 million Olympic drug-testing budget. According to Bennett, "A drug-free Games is an important message to send to the world. It is appropriate that the federal government take part in this anti-drug effort." The real war on cocaine, heroin, and other dangerous drugs continues across the country, but Sen. Bennett apparently thinks taxpayers should be more worried about those speed skaters who look just a bit too buff. While illicit drug use of any kind -- in or out of athletic competition -- is unacceptable, do the organizers of the Olympic Games really need the U.S. government paying for their screening program? After all, the Salt Lake Olympic Committee expects to cash in on an $859 million joint marketing agreement, $443 million from broadcast rights, and $180 million from ticket sales. With all that money rolling in, federal subsidies for drug testing are hardly necessary. CAGW has long argued that all federal support for the Olympic Games should be repaid to taxpayers from the profits generated during the event.

In the most blatant example of largess, the Economic Development Initiative, a program established to promote economic and social revitalization, was loaded up with more than 700 earmarks totaling $292 million. Included in that total was $36.3 million for Opera houses, theater's and museums. The House passed bill contained zero earmarks while the Senate passed bill contained $130 million worth of earmarks.

CAGW turns its sights on the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Recently, a couple of senior Postal officials got a plum perk: the Post Office paid a total of $250,000 in moving expenses for the two even though they didn’t change job sites. One employee bought a home just ten miles away, the other thirty miles away. One of these pampered executives was the USPS’s Chief Financial Officer, who announced his retirement shortly after news of the moving expenses became public.

Such small abuses often flourish in agencies with little oversight or competition. Given the Postal Service’s captive customer pool, there is little incentive to increase efficiency. USPS is a bureaucracy, characterized by all the waste, patronage, mismanagement and absence of accountability present in traditional bureaucracies.

While USPS likes to portray itself as a private-sector business, it's actually a heavily subsidized quasi-government agency. It is exempt from paying state and local taxes, borrows money at discounted interest rates, has the right of eminent domain, and the full faith and backing of the U.S. government. These benefits are valued at more than $1 billion annually.

The four remaining appropriations, Legislative Branch, Treasury, Labor/Health and Human Services and Commerce/Justice/State, were in a holding pattern at the time of this reporting, and had not been reviewed. Sources on Capitol Hill indicate these remaining bills could be larded up with an unprecedented amount of excess. It is clear that both Republicans and Democrats alike are guilty of expecting the federal taxpayers to pay for local whims that should be paid for by their state or local government.

 

Agriculture Appropriations

$5,786,000 - wood utilization research (Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon and Tennessee)
$4,177,000 - shrimp aquiculture research (Arizona, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas)
$645,000 - alternative salmon products research (Alaska)
$250,000 - Vidalia onion research (Georgia)
$200,000 - barley food health benefits research

Commerce Appropriations

$3,000,000 - research on the Charleston Bump, an offshore bottom feature that attracts a large number of fish (we know the bump is a popular dance, but why is the government teaching fish how to do it)

Defense Appropriations

$12,000,000 - shipyard apprentice program (Hawaii)
$1,000,000 - National Flag Foundation in Pittsburgh; the goal of the organization is "to inspire people everywhere, but especially young people, to be more dedicated, responsible citizens and have a greater respect for the flag," according to the foundation's director.

Interior Appropriations

$1,500,000 - Vulcan Monument (Alabama)
$250,000 - Rice Museum
$1,250,000 - Aleutian Pribilof church repairs (Alaska)
$1,130,000 - wood utilization laboratory in Sitka (Alaska)
$300,000 - Point Retreat Lighthouse (Alaska)
$176,000 - Reinder Herder's Association (Alaska)

Military Construction Appropriations

$6,390,000 - physical fitness center at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station; sources indicate that Miramar already has a gym with a high-tech fitness equipment such as a Stairmaster with Internet access.

Veterans Affairs/Housing and Urban Development/Independent Agencies Appropriations

$210,000 - support production of "The Appalachians" a film documentary (West Virginia)
$43,000 - roadway signage improvements to historic Route 66 between Topcock and Victorville
$43,000 - preservation and restoration of Civil War flags (New York).

Obtained from Citizens Against Government Waste