By Greg Cahill
IN THESE POST-GIDDY Wall Street days, you can argue all you want about the goodness of greed, but there's no denying that greed is an equal opportunity vice. Case in point: Republicans and Democrats feed with equal zeal (and at the taxpayers' expense) at the trough of pork-barrel politics. Now the 2000 Congressional Pig Book Summary--not the catchiest of titles--by Citizens Against Government Waste, has all the sordid details in its annual report, which shows how representatives attach items to spending bills.
It chronicles $17.7 billion in government waste.
"No matter how you slice it, pork is always on the menu in Washington," notes CAGW President Thomas A. Schatz. "In fiscal 2000, Congress went whole hog, porking up the various spending bills with billions of dollars in worthless earmarks. Our elected representatives simply couldn't resist the lure of easy money, putting their partisan political interests above the best interest of taxpayers."
According to Schatz, Congress indulged itself at a record pace--eclipsing last year's totals by a whopping 47 percent (and you thought there was going to be a tax rebate in your future), 22 percent higher than the previous record set in 1997.
Indeed, with 365 pork-barrel items, you can skim one-a-day style through this pink pamphlet--and still take a day off to commemorate the leap year.
But Congress was not solely to blame for the outrageous pork-barrel feeding frenzy. "President Clinton was an enabler . . . ," Schatz notes. "When congressional leaders proposed cutting just one percent of the budget by eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse, the White House said no."
Here are the Pig Book's top oinkers, recognizing "dogged perseverance in the mad pursuit of pork." Something to think about the next time you're stuck in gridlock traffic and wondering why the feds say they can't afford to fix the Bay Area's traffic mess:
The Piracy of the Potomac Award is given to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., for procuring a $375 million amphibious-assault ship that the navy doesn't want, but that will benefit his constituents. (Not to be outdone, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., snared $275 million for five F-15 fighter planes that the Pentagon didn't want.)
The Smell Test Award is shared by Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., and Rep. Stephen Buyer, R-Ind., for $1.75 million for animal waste research at the University of Missouri and Purdue University.
The Tracks of My Tears Award goes to Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., for $100,000 for Vidalia onion research.
The Bridge Over Troubled Waters Award goes to Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C., for $1 million for the Limehouse Bridge, which is used by patrons of golf resorts on the exclusive Kiawah and Seabrook Islands.
The Who Wants to Be a Billionaire Award is delivered to Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, for using the other 49 states as his "porkline" while securing more than $1 billion in earmarks since 1991.
The Son of a Beach Award is shared by Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., and Michael Forbes, D-N.Y., and a bipartisan group of members for adding $55 million in beach-renourishment projects.
The Jurassic Pork Award goes to Rep. Julian Dixon, D-Calif., for adding $1 million for a dinosaur exhibit at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History.
The What a Dam Waste Award is picked up by Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, for $625,000 for Lake Waco, including a lighted hike and bike trail on top of Lake Waco Dam.
The Empire Strikes Back Award is issued to Rep. James Walsh, R-N.Y., for bringing home $41.7 million in VA/HUD bacon, including $450,000 to convert a former NYNEX building into a parking garage.
The Breaking Up Is Easy to Do Award goes to Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., for a $35 million plan that fails to consolidate Food and Drug Administration facilities in suburban Maryland.
The Passing Gas Award is won by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., for adding $5 million for the Vermont gasification project, even though the House explicitly prohibited further funding.
The Money Does Grow on Trees Award goes to Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, for $500,000 for the Olympic Tree Program.
Copies of the book are available online at www.cagw.org.
From the May 4-10, 2000 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.
© Metro Publishing Inc.