Washington, D.C., is about to experience professional baseball for the first time in more than three decades when the Washington Nationals debut in two weeks. That will make five truly bipartisan activities in the capital city, all of them in a sense related to sports. In addition to the Nationals, there are the Redskins football club, the Wizards basketball team, the Capitals hockey club and Congress.
The difference between the more traditional sports clubs and Congress is that Congress doesn't really compete against another team. All of the players seem to be on the same team. Call them the "Capital Spenders." Occasionally, the taxpayers give them some opposition, but like any team that opposed the Harlem Globetrotters, the taxpayers never win.
Republicans have been in charge of the budget and appropriations process for a decade. They promised things would be different if voters gave them a majority. Newt Gingrich promised an audit to expose the wasteful spending of House Democrats during their 40-year rule.
Sadly, Republicans have been seduced by the love of other people's money and many (there are a few holdouts, but not enough to change much) have succumbed to the same temptations that enveloped big-spending Democrats. Only the "uniforms" have changed. The rules of this game remain the same.
Just in time for Opening Day of the baseball season comes the "2005 Congressional Pig Book," published for the 15th year by Citizens Against Government Waste. The Pig Book is an annual reminder that Congress has become the nation's biggest whore and taxpayers are the johns. You can read all 60 pages of it in early April at www.cagw.org.
Why are $100,000 of our tax dollars going to the Tiger Woods Foundation? This multi-millionaire can afford to support his own foundation.
Why must taxpayers continue to contribute to various sports halls of fame, including $75,000 for the one in Syracuse, N.Y.?
CAGW reports that Congress again "porked out at record levels." It has recorded 13,999 projects inserted into 13 appropriations bills. That's an increase for fiscal 2005 of 31 percent over last year's paltry 10,656 projects. In just the last two years, says CAGW, the total number of such projects has jumped by 49.5 percent. The cost to taxpayers for these projects in fiscal 2005 is $27.3 billion, a 19 percent boost over last year.
In the last two years alone, the cost of pork has risen 21 percent. Since CAGW began publishing the Pig Book in 1991, total pork has totaled $212 billion. That is serious money.
Why is the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., getting $450,000 for "educational outreach"? This is the work of Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), whose district includes Cooperstown. The Hall of Fame Web site states that "baseball has connections to a variety of academic disciplines, including mathematics, history, geography, technology, sociology, cultural diversity, character education, economics, women's history." Apparently not steroids, however. The Hall of Fame has received $1,569,000 since fiscal 2001 for educational outreach programs. Why is this a federal responsibility?
Congress is spending $35,000 for a weight loss demonstration program for 1,000 federal employees at the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C. The program will use the latest technology, including a private automated weigh station to track participants' progress; daily e-mail support on nutrition and exercise; and education and detailed instruction on exercise techniques, meal ideas and motivational success stories.
It's one thing to have weigh stations for heavy trucks on the highway, but do we need weigh stations for federal employees? How about if they eat less and exercise? There, I just saved taxpayers $35,000.
The reigning king of pork is West Virginia Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd. In the current budget, Byrd slipped in $11,612,000 for projects in his state, including $4.4 million for GIS Center of Excellence at West Virginia University, $3.6 million for the Appalachian Fruit Laboratory in Kearneysville and $150,000 for turfgrass research in Beaver.
Every taxpayer should read the Pig Book. What they are doing with our money should outrage us all. Read it before April 15 for maximum impact. Congress won't stop picking our pockets for wasteful pork projects in which the federal government has no business unless they are forced to by taxpayers. Read the Pig Book and weep. Then, get angry and do something.
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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