Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I like my bacon chewy: Nonprofits Top List of 2008 Porkers

Pork-barrel spending has been all over the news lately so I decided to go to the website to see the actual report.  The nonprofit, Citizens Against Government Waste, publishes a list of legislative appropriations it considers examples of pork-barrel politics.  Here is a representative ham sample

The Pig Book Summary profiles the most egregious examples, breaks down pork per capita by state, and presents the annual Oinker Awards.  All 11,610 projects are listed in a searchable database on CAGW’s website www.cagw.org.   Examples of pork in the 2008 Pig Book include:

$3 million for The First Tee;
$1,950,000 for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service;
$460,752 for hops research;
$211,509 for olive fruit fly research in Paris, France;
$196,000 for the renovation and transformation of the historic Post Office in Las Vegas;
$188,000 for the Lobster Institute in Maine; and
$148,950 for the Montana Sheep Institute.

“Americans do not send their hard-earned tax dollars to Washington so that Sen. Daniel Inouye can bring home $173 million in defense pork and receive the Pacific Fleeced Award or get sapped by $4.8 million going to wood utilization research, on which the government has spent $91 million since 1985,” concluded Schatz.

At least half of the recipients in the representative samples are nonprofits.  But then, I've visited the websites of First Tee, the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service, the Lobster Institute and the Montana Sheep Institute, and really, I can't see why spending on those programs as opposed to any other types of social spending is bad.  Not even the Lobster Institute!   I will admit that if Rangel wants naming rights he ought to donate his own dadgum money, but other than that the institutional beneficiary seems legit.  Three million for a golf institute, $2 million for a college department, $200,000 for a university department that studies lobsters and $150,000 for a college department that studies sheep don't seem all that objectionable to me.  These are all legitimate educational endeavors, whose to say teaching one thing is better than another.  Anyway, here are the criteria that must be met in order for an appropriation to be considered "pork:"  The appropriation must . . .

  • Requested by only one chamber of Congress;
  • Not specifically authorized;
  • Not competitively awarded;
  • Not requested by the President;
  • Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;
  • Not the subject of congressional hearings; or
  • Serves only a local or special interest.

I am all for curbing wasteful spending (lack the war in the desert -- spare me the hate mail, there are plenty of patriotic conservatives who think the war is a waste -- and you know who you are!) but I am not so sure that the seven criteria have anything to do with "wasteful" spending.  One person's pork is another person's filet mignon, after all.  Here is just one example.  The group includes the following appropriations as pork:

$36,900,000 for four projects funding chapels, including:  $11,600,000 by Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-Kan.) for phase I of the chapel complex at Fort Leavenworth; $10,400,000 by Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) for a chapel at Fort Leonard Wood; $9,000,000 by Senate Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee member Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House appropriator Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.), and Rep. Edward Whitfield (R-Ky.) for a chapel center at Fort Campbell; and $5,900,000 by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) for a unit chapel at Fort Lee.

$6,700,000 for two projects funding fitness centers:  $5,800,000 by Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) for an addition to a fitness center at Goodfellow Air Force Base and $900,000 by House Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee member Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) for a fitness center at Naval Station Newport.

$5,200,000 by House appropriator Ciro Rodriguez (D-Calif.) for a student activity center and library at Laughlin Air Force Base.

$4,800,000 by House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) for air conditioning at Vista Del Sol, Twentynine Palms.

$1,500,000 by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) for a dining facility at Camp Rudder.

$750,000 by Senate Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) for a bachelor quarters addition at Naval Station Newport.  According to its website, Newport’s Bachelor Housing is a “Zumwalt Award winning 5-star facility with a state-of-the-art waterfront Conference Center.”  In December, 2005 the facility received the Performance Plus Gold Pineapple Achievement Award for excellence in training and guest satisfaction from the American Hotel and Lodging Association Educational Institute.

I just don't see pork in paying for chapels on military bases, air conditioning in the desert or a fitness center at a military installation at which young people train for war, for crying out loud! 



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