It’s here! The 2014 Congressional Pig Book has been released by Citizens Against Government Waste, and it’s quite a read. Although Congress supposedly banned “earmarks” in federal legislation, the Pig Book finds them in every funding bill passed this year.
“The latest installment of CAGW’s 22-year exposé of pork-barrel spending includes $90 million to upgrade the M1 Abrams tank, which is opposed by the Pentagon; $15 million for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, secured by Senate Appropriations Committee member Patty Murray (D-Wash.); $5.9 million for the East-West Center, a ‘victory’ for Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii); and $150,000 for the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, a pet project of Senate Appropriations Committee member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.),” the agency announced last week.
CAGW is careful in what it calls pork barrel spending. To count, a budget item must meet at least one of the following criteria. It must have been “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.”
Let’s take a closer look at that tank.
“This earmark was added despite the repeated protests of Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno, who has stated that the Army has more than enough tanks, including 2,000 sitting idle in the California desert,” CAGW reports. “The Army has proposed delaying the M1 upgrade program until 2017, saving taxpayers $3 billion. During this timeframe, the DOD would focus on designing the next generation of tanks, which would be better equipped for the changing nature of warfare. Intended to take on other tanks, the M1 Abrams proved susceptible to asymmetric tactics, such as improvised explosive devices employed by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
But Congress insists on funding the tank. As CAGW observes, “There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned jobs program disguised as national security.”
The entire Department of Defense budget is bulging with pork. For example there’s nearly $1 billion allocated for health and disease research. That includes $255 million for cancer research.
CAGW says cancer research is a valid federal expenditure — but that research is already being funded by the National Cancer Institute, part of the Health and Human Services Department.
Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma released a report in 2013 that sums up defense spending: “The Department of Everything.”
“I prepared this report because the American people expect the Pentagon’s $600 billion annual budget to go toward our nation’s defense,” Coburn said. “That isn’t happening. Billions of defense dollars are being spent on programs and missions that have little or nothing to do with national security, or are already being performed by other government agencies. Spending more on grocery stores than guns doesn’t make any sense. And using defense dollars to run microbreweries, study Twitter slang, create beef jerky, or examine Star Trek does nothing to defend our nation.”
The Pig Book makes an important point. The government is very, very good at spending money. Just not spending it well.