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Jewish World Review Feb. 21, 2003 / 19 Adar I, 5763

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas
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Consumer Reports

The (bipartisan) congressional money tree

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Washington was buried under two feet of snow last week. That's nothing new for this town, which gets snow jobs year round from the politicians of both parties (and the independents, too).

Democrats -- and some Republicans -- are wringing their hands over the Bush tax cuts and the administration's proposal to let their full impact take effect this year. The familiar laments are heard on the political streets, on some editorial pages and on television: "We can't afford it. " "This is a sop to the rich. " "Who's going to pay for this? " "What about the increasing deficit? "

One might expect people who feel so strongly about deficit spending would rein in congressional spending, which is, after all, the reason for the deficit. Congress is spending more than its citizens are paying to government. And it isn't all for defense, either.

Why is the federal government spending $750,000 on the Baseball Hall of Fame, $350,000 on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and $90,000 for the Cowgirl Hall of Fame? Where is the constitutional provision that the federal government should be paying $210,000 for swine hoop research in Iowa or $200,000 for the Maxine Waters Employment Preparation Center (want to guess who put that one in the spending bill?).

Republicans -- supposed champions of fiscal responsibility, balanced budgets, lower taxes and smaller government -- proudly announce their "accomplishments " in bringing home the bacon to their states and districts. Only temperance union workers celebrating the opening of a new tavern in town would sound more inconsistent.

Rep. Thomas A. Davis (R-Va.) issued a press release trumpeting a $500,000 grant to improve a ballpark in his district. The rationale for this slice of pork? Davis spokesman David Marin explained, "He is a strong proponent of youth sports and extracurricular activities. He responds to what his constituents bring to his attention. " Whatever happened to bake sales and volunteer labor? That's how my parents, neighbors and local businesses built and repaired baseball parks when I was a kid. Why is this suddenly a federal responsibility?

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) got $5.5 million for the Beltsville (Md.) Honey Bee Laboratory. President Bush wanted to close it. Pork tastes good when covered with honey, I guess.

What ought to provoke public outrage produces hardly a ripple. That is why Congress continues to get away with misspending our money. Often the pork is added literally in the dead of night and in secret negotiations. Details emerge after the spending measures are passed and sometimes not until after the president signs them. Efforts by presidents to acquire the power of a line-item veto have been foiled by the Supreme Court, which has declared it unconstitutional. If Congress had any sense of responsibility, it would go on the wagon itself.

One million dollars for a bear DNA sampling project in Montana? How would you like to have that job?

The "King of Pork, " Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.), managed to squeeze out $150,000 for new office space in a Capitol corridor. Doesn't he have enough office space already?

How about $725,000 for something called the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia? Sounds like one of those interactive screens at the airport, or perhaps an encounter group.

This will cease when citizens stop demanding pork from the public trough and politicians no longer use it as a way to win votes. Members of Congress know that spreading our money around is what helps keep them in office. That's why the term limits movement needs to be revived. The only reason for this outrageous overspending is that politics -- not public service -- has become a career. How about $150,000 for Charleston Bump Billfish Tagging?

Check out more waste, fraud and abuse on the Citizens Against Government Waste Web page (www.cagw.org). Write or e-mail your members of Congress. Ask them what they are doing with your money and demand the rest of your tax cut now before they can spend $732,000 for the Center for Designing Foods at Iowa State.

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JWR contributor Cal Thomas is the author of, among others, The Wit and Wisdom of Cal Thomas Comment by clicking here.

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