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OPINION

Congressional Pig Book Shows Where to Find Cuts

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Tony Dejak

The federal government is too big and spends too much. Federal officials are borrowing money today that will need to be paid by coming generations. Too much of this spending is simply waste, fraud, and abuse. This is a sad fact and both political parties are to blame.

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Over the history of the United States, we have rung up over $31 trillion in debt because of our bloated federal government. How are we ever going to pay the national debt off if we are racking a trillion or two a year in new debt and the federal government is making no effort to reform spending programs?  We are not even close to finding ways to run surpluses that will whittle down the debt.

Today, our nation is in grave danger of default. If lawmakers don’t pass a bill that allows them to keep making debt payments, the federal government could default and cause a debt crisis. That would put the national security of the United States in danger. Out of control debt poses a greater threat than the Russian invasion of Ukraine. If our government defaults, chaos will ensue.

However, Congress has the opportunity to show some leadership, and Citizens Against Government Waste is handing lawmakers a guidebook: the 2023 Congressional Pig Book targets wasteful earmarked spending that was not requested by the Administration. 

Congress has the right to earmark spending because lawmakers have the power of the purse. That is why Americans aren’toffended when their elected representatives determine where money should be spent instead of allowing unelected bureaucrats to make those decisions. However, such spending needs to be for valid projects that don’t waste taxpayer cash. If voters sniff out wasteful spending, they will take it out on incumbents of both parties.

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Some of the earmarks requested add up to over a billion dollars. According to CAGW, one big triple earmark for the same program that needs study is “$1,508,300,000 for three earmarks for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), including funding for the acquisition of 18 aircraft beyond the amount requested by the DOD.” If the Air Force isn’t even requesting these additional fighter jets, then the Congress should us the power of the purse to push additional unnecessary hardware on the military. When the U.S. is shipping equipment over to Ukraine at record levels, money needs to be targeted to replenish what we are giving away, not earmarking new aircraft that the military didn’t even ask for.

Ordering extra F-35s is waste on top of waste. Dan Grazier writes that the $1.7 trillion F-35 program is “a fighter jet that exhibits everything from structural cracks to cybersecurity vulnerabilities.” Grazier’s piece in The Hill characterized the program as a “colossal boondoggle” for the taxpayer. An extra $1.5 billion in spending that the Pentagon didn’t ask for is an easy place for Congress to find big savings.

The Pig Book highlights other long-hanging fruit. The study pointed out a $30 million earmark for the Save America’s Treasures grants program, a $13 million one for presidential libraries, a cool $1 million earmark for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a half-million one for wild horse management in Nevada. A Congress that is forcing spending in these areas does not have a leg to stand on when complaining about wasteful spending.

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Republicans in the House of Representatives say they will not increase the debt limit unless there are also spending reforms. That makes sense, of course, but they also need to take a hard look in the mirror and reform their own spending excess. It is time for Republicans to act like conservatives again.

There is no way that lawmakers are going to deal with entitlement reform right now. But they don’t have to, yet. Our federal government can balance the need to fully fund national defense and core government functions while simultaneously trimming spending on wasteful programs. 

Congress can take the high road on spending by giving up wasteful earmarks while at the same time demanding cuts from the Biden Administration as a part of any bill to hike the debt ceiling. The Pig Book shows a way forward. Lawmakers simply need to start walking down the path.

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