Brian Riedl, the chief budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation, has been sifting through funding bills that are stacked up in Congress, awaiting passage. His finding: They contain another 11,351 pork projects that will needlessly spend tens of billions of dollars more in this fiscal year. Among them:
-- $2 million for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York, named after the powerful House Ways and Means Committee chairman from Harlem.
-- $1 million for the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, Ark.
-- $200,000 for the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas, Nev., named after the multimillionaire tennis legend.
-- $500,000 for a special interest appropriately called Our Piece of the Pie, in Hartford, Conn.
-- $400,000 for the Montana World Trade Center.
-- $3.74 million to research the Formosan Subterranean Termite.
The lengthy parade of pork winding its way through Congress is stunning in its brazenness in the face of voter anger and disgust over past spending gluttony, Riedl said.
The big problems are ignored, while the petty thievery by lawmakers to feather their re-election prospects back home grows ever larger under the new Pelosi-Reid regime that runs Congress' legislative machinery.
Congress has failed to address the looming tidal wave of debt that now threatens Social Security and Medicare, "but it did decide that Boydton, Va., could use a new walking tour," Riedl said.
"Congress has not solved the burgeoning problem of the Alternative Minimum Tax" that shoves middle-class taxpayers into higher tax brackets, "but it did decide that bike trails in Highland, Ind., should be upgraded.
"Vital issues are being ignored by lawmakers who instead focus their energy on determining how much tax dollars to send to the Hunting & Fishing Museum of Pennsylvania," he said in a sweeping analysis of the mounting pork scandal.
Lawmakers say they are merely bringing federal dollars home. In fact, Riedl shows how pork projects are, in many cases, "carved out of funding streams that were already coming back to the state and local governments and private organizations anyway."
But earmarks divert much of that money to lower- or no-priority special interests that "generates publicity and campaign contributions for lawmakers who, in fact, have only tied strings to federal money that was already coming home."
If Republicans want to earn the respect and trust of the voters in next year's elections, they could start by pledging to end all earmark spending. Americans are fed up with these abuses, which is why Congress' approval rating is at a historic low.