For decades now, we as taxpayers have handed over our hard earned tax dollars like sheep to the government and never questioned where it was going to any real extent. John McCain has questioned it for years, however, and one of his favorite topics is pork barrel spending.
So exactly what is pork barrel spending and why should we care about it?
By definition, a “pork” project is a line-item in an appropriations bill that designates tax dollars for a specific purpose in circumvention of established budgetary procedures, according to CAGW or Citizenâ€™s Against Government Waste. These projects must meet at least one of the seven criteria established by the CAGW and The Congressional Porkbusters Coalition in 1991. The criteria is so simple to understand, even a Congressman should get it. Itâ€™s pork if itâ€™s:
- Requested by only one chamber of Congress
- Not specifically authorized;
- Not competitively awarded
- Not requested by the President;
- Greatly exceeds the Presidentâ€™s budget request or the previous yearâ€™s funding;
- Not the subject of congressional hearings; or
- Serves only a local or special interest.
In fiscal year 2008, Congress stuffed 11,610 projects (the second highest total ever) into the 12 appropriations bills worth $17.2 billion. The 11,610 projects represent a 337 percent increase over the 2,658 projects in fiscal year 2007. Total pork identified by CAGW since 1991 adds up to $271 billion.
Now comes John McCain on the scene and he says he wants to be our President. He says that rampant wasteful spending on special interest projects is draining a major portion of our tax dollars, and he says as President he will not only veto every pork laden bill placed in front of him but he will “make their authors famous”. He has never submitted a pork barrel project into legislature. He simply “doesnâ€™t do pork”.
On the other side of the room, Barack Obama is proud of the pork he brings home to his allies and donors in Illinois. From the Chicago Tribune:
“My philosophy was that, if money was being distributed, then it would be inappropriate for me to not get my share for my district,” Obama, now one of the U.S. Senate Democrats’ leaders on ethics reform, said in an interview. “Did I think it was the best way to prioritize government spending? No.”
The Tribune analyzed 119 grants in which Obama steered more than $6 million for Chicago projects between late 1999 and late 2002, the heart of his Statehouse career and the center of a state government frenzy in which Obama said the pork-barrel process was “wide open.”
Typical of his grants was the $5,000 Obama delivered to the South Shore Public Library for chess equipment, books and knitting supplies, or the $5,000 to help the Sir Miles Davis Academy plaster and paint walls and repair windows.
Obama steered $75,000 to a South Side charity called FORUM Inc., which promised to help churches and community groups get wired to the Internet. Records show five FORUM employees, including one who had declared bankruptcy, had donated $1,000 apiece to Obama’s state Senate campaign. As the grant dollars were being disbursed to FORUM, the Illinois attorney general filed a civil lawsuit accusing the charity’s founder of engaging in an unrelated kickback scheme. Just days after the suit was filed, Obama quietly returned the $5,000 in donations. “I didn’t want to be associated with money that potentially might have been tainted,” he said. FORUM founder Yesse Yehudah, who unsuccessfully ran for state Senate against Obama in 1998, denied wrongdoing and, without admitting guilt, settled the attorney general’s lawsuit by paying $10,000 to a charity. He declined to comment.
One of those long-time supporters was Rev. Michael Pfleger, the politically active leader of St. Sabina Church. He gave Obama’s campaign $1,500 between 1995 and 2001, including $200 in April 2001, about three months after Obama announced $225,000 in grants to St. Sabina programs.
Another supporter, Henry English, made two donations to Obama totaling $900 in 2001 after Obama helped send a $50,000 grant to a non-profit group that English ran, the Black United Fund of Illinois.
The Chicago-based Muntu Dance Theatre received a $4.5 million grant to help pay for a $10 million cultural center. Obama’s mentor in Springfield, state Sen. Emil Jones (D-Chicago), sponsored the grant. And at the time $2.25 million of the grant was disbursed, Obama’s wife, Michelle, sat on the non-profit dance group’s board. Also, interesting to note, this African American Dance Theatre is one of Obamaâ€™s personal tax deductions listed under “charity”.”
Simply put, a large number of our officials â€“ Obama included – are guilty of the same thing that our five year old is guilty of in the grocery store. You know what happens â€“ you get to the checkout counter and find all manner of junk food in the cart that the child has snuck in when you werenâ€™t looking, and heâ€™s hoping you wonâ€™t notice and just go ahead and pay for them anyway. This is what our elected government officials are doing to us, and John McCain promises not only to take away their goodies when heâ€™s President, but to call them out and give them a spanking right in front of us all. He wonâ€™t win any popularity contest on the Hill with this promise, but Iâ€™ll bet he gets some votes with it. He sure gets mine.
Babs is a frequent commenter and contributing guest commentary author for YouDecide2008.com