‘The only place pork is good is on ribs and on a bun—that’s about it for me…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) The nonprofit watchdog dedicated to tracking wasteful federal spending can breathe easy that their jobs are secure for the foreseeable future—along with many others being artificially bolstered on the backs of taxpayers.
The report showed an increase of 4 percent in pork-barrel spending over the previous fiscal year, and a 22 percent increase since 2011, when Congress implemented what was supposed to be a moratorium on earmarks in its appropriations bills.
“Taxpayers should always remember why the moratorium was needed in the first place,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz during a press conference flanked by several members of Congress.
“After high profile boondoggles like the bridge to nowhere and a decade of scandals in the 2000s that resulted in jail terms for congressmen and lobbyists, Washington decided it was time to take a break from earmarks,” Schatz said.
Since it began in 1991, CAGW has tracked 111,114 earmarks, amounting to $359.8 billion, he said.
That included a record high $29 billion in FY2006.
“The increase in pork-barrel spending has occurred behind closed doors and hidden from taxpayers,” Schatz said. “There are no names of legislators attached, and really no information about where the money is being spent.”
He noted that defense spending accounted for $9.4 billion—or 61 percent—of the current waste based on the seven criteria used by CAGW.
Among the most wasteful of the Pentagon’s projects was the requisitioning of 16 additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, Schatz said.
The program has been in development for 18 years and is eight years behind schedule.
With an acquisition cost nearly double the initial estimate, now totaling $428 billion, and operational costs at $1.2 trillion, Schatz said it was “by far the most expensive weapons system in history.”
Schatz also ran through what he described as “a slew of absurd nature-related earmarks,” which CAGW highlighted in a video on its Facebook page.
And he noted what he said was “perhaps the most flagrant earmark,” a $16.7 million appropriation comprising the entire operational budget of Hawaii’s East–West Center, even as a counterpart called the North–South Center ceased being funded in 2001.
Schatz said he was encouraged by a motion Senate Republicans approved in May that would have established a permanent earmark band.
He brought four GOP congressmen to the podium for brief remarks, beginning with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who noted a $2 million study recently on whether people were more or less likely to eat food if the person in front of them in line at a cafeteria had sneezed on it.
“The reason we still have waste is we keep giving the people who are wasting it more money,” Paul said. “Give them less money and they’ll waste less.”
Rep. Tom McClintock of California distilled the picture of government waste over the past decade down to its simplest terms:
“If you want to know everything there is to know about the federal budget, you just need to know three numbers: 21, 32 and 38,” he said.
The first number accounted for the percentage of population growth and inflation. The second accounted for the increase in federal revenues. The third accounted for the increase in federal spending.
“All of that comes out of the future economic growth of our country—we’re literally taking it from our kids,” he said.
Two freshman congressmen, Reps. Ted Budd of North Carolina and Tim Burchett of Tennessee both joined as well. Both said they were barbecue aficionados and perhaps enticed by the CAGW mascot.
Burchett quipped that he thought the book was a recipe book at first and was planning to take it home before discovering its much more shocking contents.
“The only place pork is good is on ribs and on a bun—that’s about it for me,” he said.
As Schatz warned earlier, though, the need for vigilance was greater than ever, with the annual deficit now approaching a trillion dollars and the national debt exceeding $22 trillion.
“As earmarks under the moratorium continue to rise, there is still a bipartisan appetite to bring them back completely,” he said.