NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 17, 2005

Congressional "pork" spending has grown significantly in recent years, according to Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute. Since 1995, the annual number of pork projects increased from less than 2,000 to almost 14,000.

The most recent offense is the $286 billion highway bill containing 6,371 special projects requested by Congress members for their states and districts. However, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) identified other projects from the 2005 omnibus budget bill:

  • $350,000 for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and $250,000 for the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.
  • $25,000 for a mariachi music course in a Nevada school district.
  • $1.4 million for upgrades at Ted Stevens International Airport in Alaska.
  • $100,000 to the City of Rochester, N.Y., for a film festival.

Projects like Halls of Fame, the film festival and airport upgrades should best be left to private interests, while a course for a school district should be funded by state or local government, says Edwards.

Democrats were once known as big spenders, but now Republicans, particularly Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young of Alaska, and Senators Trent Lott and Thad Cochran of Mississippi are leading pork spenders. Congressional members have become so preoccupied with spending for their districts, they are missing national concerns such as security, says Edwards.

Part of the solution may be to require more budget transparency by listing the names of the politicians next to each project they request in legislation, and posting spending request letters online.

Source: Chris Edwards, "Pork: A Microcosm of the Overspending Problem," Tax & Budget, no. 24, August 2005, Cato Institute.

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