Paul Jacob

When it comes to the real issues in Congress, there is only one. Day after day, year after year, the issue is how to divvy up the body politic as fat slabs of pork.

In the good ol' days of just a decade ago, pork was quietly stuffed into various bills and sneaked through the Congress. Today, pork seems the raison d'?e for these monster bills that are little else.

The Republican-controlled Congress provides ample evidence to conclude that wielding political power and spending other people's money trump party affiliation. Republican congressmen have beaten Democrats at the polls and then again at the trough of wasteful spending. The last highway bill in Democratic hands had 538 pork projects earmarked for specific congressmen. This latest bill had 3,193 earmarked expenditures.

The fact that Congress has become even more of a smorgasbord and that there seems to be no stopping these big pig-outs is worth some reflection. Let's look at the highway bill just passed by the House. Representative Don Young of Alaska, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, managed to put two laughable projects into the legislation.

Taxpayers across the nation will pay to build two bridges in Alaska. One bridge connects Ketchikan, population 8,000, and lonely Gravina Island, home to 50 souls. Yup: $120 million for a bridge to an island that has 50 people on it. Yet, your taxes are building quite an impressive bridge--higher than the Brooklyn Bridge and just as long as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Then there's the bridge being built between the Port of Anchorage and Mackenzie Port. What's that? You've never heard of Mackenzie Port? You don't know why it needs a $200 million bridge? Maybe that's because Mackenzie Port has a permanent population of one. Not 1,000 or 100; just one.

These projects amuse us on late night TV, but the cost isn't funny: $320 million for both.

Congressman Young admits that "[i]t's not a good way to legislate, although I got a lot of stuff in it. I mean I stuffed it like a turkey."

Congressmen regularly admit that what they do is wrong or isn't "good"; that the Congress they work in is dominated by special interests; that they are "all corrupt." I don't know about you, but I'm convinced that on these matters--and these matters only--congressmen are actually telling the truth.

Young is not without excuses. He explains that Alaska came late to the game--becoming a state in 1959--so they have make up for lost time. Apparently, we should have been sending pork to Alaska a long time ago, subsidizing Wooly Mammoths, perhaps.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.