NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 23, 2004

This past weekend, Congress had a grand old time at its annual porkfest -- rolling the nation ever deeper into debt to pay for dubious local projects. Tax cuts and war costs left little room to maneuver, so the yearly federal spending bill passed Saturday simply cut bone to fund fat, says USA Today.

Out went money for education, with the way cleared to reduce by 90,000 the number of poor college students getting Pell grants. Environmental protection budgets were cut by more than $330 million, and National Science Foundation research by $105 million.

But there was plenty of money to provide for newfound "essentials" such as:

  • $25,000 to study mariachi music in the schools of Las Vegas.
  • $100,000 to fund a "weather museum" in Punxsutawney, Pa., home of the hokey Groundhog Day star, Punxsutawney Phil.
  • $2 million to buy back the onetime presidential yacht Sequoia, sold off 27 years ago as a long-overdue economy move.

That's just the beginning. The budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense tallied nearly 12,000 "earmarks" in the bill, provisions moving powerful members' pet projects to the front of the line for federal handouts, ahead of other requests that may better serve the national interest. The total is $16 billion, 4 percent of the entire bill.

All kinds of favors were tucked into the 1,000-page, 14-inch-thick package. Many provisions had never been debated. Few if any members could have read the measure before they passed it, says USA Today.

Source: Editorial, "Congress' Overstuffed Turkey," USA Today, November 23, 2004.

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