Tracking the Pork

by Gerri Willis

If you thought the GSA Vegas Vacation was bad, just wait until you hear what Congress is doing with your tax dollars!

You may want to sit down for this...

Citizens Against Government Waste has published its latest edition of the "Pig book”, a report tracking Washington Pork spending since 1991.

Let's start with the good news...

The amount of earmarks in fiscal year 2012 is way down from 2010.

In fact, the number has decreased by more than 98 percent to just 152.

The cost is also plummeting.

The amount of tax dollars destined for pet projects down 80 percent to just over three billion dollars.

The authors of the report credit the new class of deficit hawks in Congress, and the "ban" on earmarks.

But three billion dollars is still a lot of money, which begs the question... If there's a "ban”, what are we spending this money on?

I'm glad you asked...

Some of the biggest offenders - Defense.

For example, Congress appropriated 255 million dollars to upgrade the army's M1 Abrams tank.

But here's the thing: the Pentagon wants to halt production on these tanks!

The report pointed out those members of Congress who were the most vocal supporters of this pork came from districts where the parts will be made.

Other ridiculous defense spending: 239 million dollars for cancer research and 120 million dollars for alternative energy research.

Both of which should never be the military's job, and that research is already being conducted elsewhere!

Speaking of energy, other pork projects include nearly 14 million dollars on Hydropower Construction, three and a half million dollars for the National Fish Hatchery and three million dollars for Aquatic Plant Control.

I don't even know what half this stuff is!!!!

Get this one: nearly 115 million dollars has been donated to the United Nations Democracy Fund despite never being asked for!

Another over-the-top gift: a nearly six million dollar award for an East-West Center in Hawaii meant to improve relations among Pacific nations.

It is well known to be a pet project of Senator Daniel Inouye.

You may have noticed that's the first name I’ve mentioned in connection with these earmarks.

There's a reason for that. This Pig Book used to be a public shaming for lawmakers spending ridiculous amounts of public money on their home districts.

The downside of the "ban" on earmarks is members of Congress have not gotten rid of them entirely. They've just gotten better at hiding them.

The report says: "the supposed lack of earmarks resulted in a completely opaque process. Since earmarks were deemed to be non-existent, there were no names of legislators, no information on where and why the money will be spent, and no list or chart of earmarks in the appropriations bills or reports."

Oh, good. Just what we need. Less transparency in Washington!

And members of Congress wonder why only 12 percent of Americans approve of the "job" they're doing.