Hog-tied spend­ing bills

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Don­ald Lam­bro

De­spite the Democrats’ pledge to get con­trol of their ad­dic­tion to waste­ful spend­ing, their moun­tain of pork-bar­rel pro­vi­sions has pre­vented Congress from pass­ing its ap­pro­pri­a­tions bills for fis­cal 2008.

Ex­hibit A is a La­bor, Health and Hu­man Ser­vices and Ed­u­ca­tion bill taken up by the Se­nate two weeks ago that was filled to the brim with pork (also known as ear­marks). This “minibus” bill was en­gi­neered by Democrats at­tempt­ing to draw just enough votes to make it ve­to­proof.

Two weeks ago, Repub­li­can Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Repub­li­can, one of the stel­lar anti-pork war­riors in Congress, said this about the bill: “The Democrats have made a joke of the ethics bill as they packed this ‘minibus’ with thou­sands of pet projects. They have shown their [so-called anti-pork] rules to be laugh­able and in­ef­fec­tive, as they con­tinue to spend mil­lions on se­cret ear­marks and hide their pork from pub­lic scru­tiny.”

All told, this spend­ing pack­age in­cluded at least 2,200 ear­marks worth more than $1 bil­lion. Among them, a $1 mil­lion ear­mark for the Thomas Daschle Cen­ter for Pub­lic Ser­vice and Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Democ­racy at South Dakota State Uni- ver­sity, named for the for­mer Se­nate Demo­cratic leader.

Democrats of­ten go to great lengths to dis­guise what their ear­marks are ac­tu­ally for, mak­ing their in­ten­tions sound far more im­por­tant than they are. A $300,000 item that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, in­serted into the La­bor-Health and Hu­man Ser­vices-Ed­u­ca­tion spend­ing bill for a mu­seum called Ex­plorato­rium, which pro­motes “teacher re­cruit­ment, re­ten­tion, and im­prove­ment ini­tia­tive” (http://www.ex­plorato­rium.edu/).

But the Ex­plorato­rium’s Web site de­scribes the mu­seum as “a col­lage of hun­dreds of interactive ex­hibits in the ar­eas of science, art, and hu­man per­cep­tion” Its mis­sion is “to cre­ate a cul­ture of learn­ing through in­no­va­tive en­vi­ron­ments, pro­grams and tools that help peo­ple nur­ture their cu­rios­ity about the world around them.”

Mrs. Pelosi’s pet project has been given more than $33 mil­lion in fed­eral-fund­ing ear­marks and grants over the last six years. “Should fed­eral tax­pay­ers be sub­si­diz­ing a wealthy city’s mu­seum dur­ing a time of deficit spend­ing?” asked the Se­nate Repub­li­can Con­fer­ence’s Pork Re­port?

In ad­di­tion to bo­gus de­scrip­tions of what your tax dol­lars pay for, law­mak­ers are fond of stick­ing their ear­marked projects into bills that have noth­ing to do with the bill’s pur­poses. Here’s a sam­pling of the kind of pork found in the De­fense Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Act that was un­cov­ered by Cit­i­zens Against Gov­ern­ment Waste:

$23 mil­lion for the Na­tional Drug Intelligence Cen­ter (NDIC) added by Rep. Jack Murtha, Penn­syl­va­nia Demo­crat. It has re­ceived more than half a bil­lion dol­lars since 1992, but the Jus­tice De­part­ment, which ad­min­is­ters the pro­gram, wants to shut it down, call­ing its work “du­plica­tive.”

$4.8 mil­lion for the Ja­maica Bay Unit of Gate­way Na­tional Re­cre­ation Area sought by Rep. An­thony Weiner, New York Demo­crat, de­scribed as “a wealth of his­tory, na­ture and re­cre­ation.”

$3 mil­lion for “The First Tee,” added by House Demo­cratic Whip James Cly­burn of South Carolina. The pro­gram’s Web site says its mis­sion is to “pro­mote char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment and life-en­hanc­ing val­ues through the game of golf.”

$1.6 mil­lion for the Allen Tele­scope Ar­ray, in­serted by Rep. Anna Eshoo, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, whose work is “ded­i­cated to as­tro­nom­i­cal and si­mul­ta­ne­ous search for ex­trater­res­trial intelligence ob­ser­va­tions.”

So far the Democrats’ fis­cal 2008 ap­pro­pri­a­tions bills would dish out a to­tal of $24.7 bil­lion for more than 12,000 ear­marked ex­pen­di­tures like th­ese.

“Democrats can’t let go of their pork and keep in­vent­ing new ways to stop new ear­mark dis­clo­sure rules and by­pass the old ones,” Mr. DeMint said two weeks ago. “Th­ese shame­ful back­room deals are ex­actly why Congress con­tin­ues to earn its low­est ap­proval rat­ing in his­tory,” he said. When will it stop?

When the vot­ers de­cide they have had enough.

Don­ald Lam­bro, chief po­lit­i­cal correspondent of The Wash­ing­ton Times, is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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