Business In The Beltway - The Pork Report 2004

Ira Carnahan,

06.23.04, 6:00 AM ET

Racking up a government debt of $7.1 trillion isn't easy, but Washington politicians can be very creative, at least when it comes to spending. For proof, flip through the latest edition of the Pig Book, the annual compendium of wasteful spending put together by the government watchdogs at Citizens Against Government Waste.

According to the Washington-based group, pork-barrel spending hit a new high this year, with a record 10,656 projects that cost taxpayers $22.9 billion. The tab is up 14% from two years ago.

What sort of waste has Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) uncovered? Here's a sampling:

$375,000 for the Homesteak Opera House in Lead, S.D.
$5 million for the Strom Thurmond Fitness and Wellness Center in Columbia, S.C.
$2 million for the First Tee Program in St. Augustine, Fla. First Tee, reports the group's Web site, "is an initiative of the World Golf Foundation. The focus is to give young people of all backgrounds an opportunity to develop, through golf and character education, life-enhancing values such as honesty, integrity and sportsmanship."
$1 million to bring professional productions of Shakespeare to U.S. military bases
$200,000 for the Rockin' the Schools program of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland
$400,000 to Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho, so it can launch a master's degree program in dental hygiene
$18.5 million for the International Fund for Ireland, which is to be spent on "projects that hold the greatest potential for job creation and equal opportunity for the Irish people." Since 1986, reports CAGW, the International Fund for Ireland has received $439 million in taxpayer dollars.
It turns out some states get a much bigger serving of pork than others. The best-fed: states whose representatives hold powerful positions on congressional appropriations committees. Alaska leads the country by far, with Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) helping to bring the once proudly independent and self-sufficient residents of Alaska $808 worth of federal pork per person--an impressive 26 times the national average.

Number two is Hawaii, at $392 per person. It's perhaps no coincidence that Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) is the second-ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Rounding out the biggest recipients of pork are the District of Columbia ($321 per person), New Hampshire ($216 per person) and West Virginia ($132 per person).

Which states collect the least pork? The bottom five are Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, North Carolina and--least pork-ridden of all--New Jersey.

How does CAGW decide what's pork? Any project it labels porcine meets at least one (and usually more than one) of the following tests:

It is requested by just one house of Congress.
It isn't specifically authorized.
It wasn't competitively awarded.
It isn't requested by the President.
It far exceeds the President's budget request or the previous year's spending.
It isn't reviewed in a congressional hearing.
It serves a narrow local or special interest.
Citizens Against Government Waste also hands out a number of special citations, including:

The Gobbling Up Tax Dollars Award for $538,000 for the National Wild Turkey Federation in Edgefield, S.C.
The Goofy Earmark Award for $500,000 for buses for Anaheim Resort Transit, which serves The Walt Disney Co.'s (nyse: DIS - news - people ) California theme park
The Taxpayers Get Scrooged Award for $2.2 million worth of earmarks for North Pole, Alaska, with a population of just 1,570
The Hall of Shame Award to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) "for his 23 years of pork barreling at taxpayers' expense."
The single worst piece of pork? That's a highly competitive contest, but according to CAGW, the fattest piece of bacon for the past year is an appropriation of $50 million for an indoor rain forest in Coralville, Iowa. When this boondoggle is finished, Iowa will be home to the world's largest enclosed rain forest. Credit for federal taxpayer support of this great achievement goes to Sen. Charles Grassley (R- Iowa).

CAGW hastens to point out that the pork barrel is continuing to flow in 2004. Take the Jumpstart Our Business Strength Act, now oinking its way through Congress. The Senate's version of the bill, according to the group, features a slew of dubious tax breaks, including:

$519 million for makers of small aircraft, including Learjet, owned by Bombardier and Cessna, a division of Textron (nyse: TXT - news - people )
$310 million for makers of ships, including Northrop Grumman (nyse: NOC - news - people )
$189 million for General Motors (nyse: GM - news - people ) dealers who sell Oldsmobiles
$92 million for NASCAR
and, of course, an $8 million tax break for makers of bows and arrows.



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