A Hunka Hunka Burning Pork

If anyone can cut through all the excrement spewing out of Washington nowadays, will they please remind those who lead Congress and occupy the White House that, at one time in their sordid history, they promised to curb government spending and bring fiscal responsibility to our government?

I seemed to remember that lie among the diarrhea of falsehoods from the gang of con men, thieves and crooks that control our government.

Obviously they don’t. All you have to do is take a look at the pork-laden Transportation Bill that Congress passed last week and sent to George W. Bush.

Packed into the $286.5 billion (that’s “billion” with a “b”) bill are 6,376 “earmarks” that adds $12.4 billion in useless spending (also “billion” with a “b”).

“Earmark” is Washington doublespeak for “pork,” the longtime practice of adding favorite projects from members of the House and Senate who want to make sure that large chunks of federal projects go back home.

Alaska Congressman Don Young, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, called the bill’s passage by the House with a 412-8 vote, “a truly momentous day for users of our nation’s transportation infrastructure.”

Yeah, right. Young personally packed the bill with $941 million in pet projects, including a $223 million “bridge to nowhere” that will, coincidently, be named after him. That’s right. The “Don Young Way” bridge will serve tiny Ketchikan Island (population 50).

Young, as usual, made sure Alaska got more than its share of pork. The state ranks 48th in population but finished fourth in pork barrel projects, thanks to Young.

But let’s be fair. A whole bunch of other Congressman and Senators, Democrat and Republican, stuck favorite projects from their districts and states into the bill. Taxpayers for Common Sense, a non-partisan organization in Washington that monitors government spending, found projects like these hidden in the 1,752-page bill.

  • $3,000,000 – Renovate and expand National Packard Museum and adjacent Packard facilities in Warren, OH.
  • $300,000 – Purchase trolley bus for Yonkers, New York.
  • $2,500,000 – Landscaping enhancements along the Ronald Reagan Freeway Route 118 in California for aesthetic purposes.
  • $7,268,486 – For the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers to build the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, a new snowmobile trail in Vermont. This trail would be part of the network of trails managed by VAST, a private organization in Vermont that builds and maintains these facilities.
  • $5,500,000 – Rehabilitate the roadways around the soon to be built East Baltimore Life Science Park, which will cost the state of Maryland $26.5 million over five years. This will be 22 acres of an ongoing 80-acre redevelopment of East Baltimore near Johns Hopkins, and will include research space, a biotech incubator for startups, a new mass transit connection, and green space.
  • $1,500,000 – Planning and engineering for The American Road, The Henry Ford Museum.
  • $3,200,000 – Acquire site, design and construction of interpretative center, enhancement of trail corridor in the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Corridor.
  • $1,500,000 – Upgrade roads in Itta Bena (U.S. Hwy 82 and 7) and in vicinity of Viking Range Corp. (U.S. Hwy 7 and 49) in Leflore, Mississippi.
  • $1,500,000 – Planning, design, site acquisition and construction for trail system and visitors center on Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia at the Rocky Knob Heritage Center.
  • $850,000 – Construction of bicycle and trolley path in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
  • $377,500 – Construct parking facility and improve access to Imperial Valley Expo in California.
  • $1,500,000 – Install lighting/steps, upgrade existing trail system and equip interpretative center with visitor information at the Blue Ridge Music Center in Virginia.
  • $4,000,000 – Graffiti Elimination Program including Kings Highway from Ocean Parkway to McDonald Avenue in Queens and Brooklyn.
  • $14,000,000 – Construction of I-69 between Evansville and Indianapolis, Indiana, part of a NAFTA corridor from Canada to Mexico that will cost taxpayers $10 billion or more in total.
  • $14,000,000 – Reconstruction of the I-40 Crosstown Expressway from I-44 to I-35 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Rep. Istook, the project’s biggest champion, has gone to great lengths to secure funding for this project. During the appropriations process, Rep. Istook penalized Amtrak supporters in the House by removing funding for their pet projects, and then used that money to fund this project with tens of millions of dollars.
  • $40,000 – Trolley barn in Harrison, AR.
  • $2,000,000 – Parking facility in Bozeman, MT.
  • $1,040,000 – Transportation museum on the Navy Pier in Chicago, IL (two earmarks).

When Republicans won control of Congress in the 1994 elections, part of the “Contract With America” was a promise to eliminate pork from spending bills. They followed up on that promise with a record $218 billion transportation bill that broke all records for spending and pork. That record stood until last week when Congress sent the new transportation bill to Bush, who signed it into law Saturday.

To be fair, Democrats did nothing to stop the bill. The House voted 412-8 and the Senate 91-4 for the bill. Voting against it in the House were Reps. Boehner, Flake, Hensarling, Jones (NC), Royce, Sensenbrenner, Shadegg and Thornberry. The four who voted against the bill in the Senate were Sens. Cornyn, Gregg, Kyl, and McCain.

That’s right. All four votes against the bill in the Senate were Republicans who bucked their own party leadership. Every Democrat who voted in the Senate voted for the pork.