The House last week narrowly passed a $2.4 trillion budget resolution, setting the stage for a confrontation with the Senate over proposed curbs on further tax cuts.
What should be the issue is not how much of our money Congress will allow us to keep, but how much of our money we will allow Congress to spend. Instead of debating curbs on tax cuts, members of Congress should impose spending curbs on themselves.
Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) will release its annual Pig Book next week. It lists enough pork projects in the current fiscal year to harden the arteries of every taxpayer.
Spending runs the gamut from ridiculous to outrageous. Why must taxpayers shell out $100,000 to renovate an historic Coca-Cola building in Macon, Ga., when the soft drink company made millions last year and could fund the project itself? When we have a $521 billion deficit and a $7.1 trillion national debt, why is Congress playing Santa Claus by spending $200,000 for "recreational improvements" in North Pole, Alaska?
CAGW reports that pork projects this year again set new records, totaling 10,672 projects in 13 appropriations bills. That's an increase over last year's 9,362 projects. Eliminating needless and wasteful spending would put a serious dent in the national debt. But Congress, in the only bipartisan activity left in Washington, continues to act like Paris Hilton, who spends inherited money she never made.
CAGW reports Alaska leads the nation in pork projects, amounting to $801 per capita. Runners-up were Hawaii ($392 per capita) and the District of Columbia, which recently discovered lead in its drinking water to add to all of its other Third World-type problems ($321 per capita). Both Alaska and Hawaii are represented by powerful Senate appropriators, Republican Sen. Ted Stevens from Alaska and Democrat Daniel Inouye from Hawaii, who regularly bring home slabs of taxpayer bacon.
In the introduction to the Pig Book, CAGW's David E. Williams and John Middleton write, "Until Congress enacts serious and meaningful budget reform, there could be another record level of pork in fiscal 2005. Tax dollars should be focused on protecting the nation, instead of being used to protect the incumbency of members of Congress."
The profile of pork is this: It is a project that is usually the work of an individual member of Congress and is not requested by the president; it is not specifically authorized; it is not competitively awarded; it is not the subject of congressional hearings; it greatly exceeds the president's budget request or funding for the previous year, and it serves only a local or special interest.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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