Pork-barrel spending hit a record $18.5 billion last year, according to the latest annual report by the watchdog organization Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW).
Since 1991, CAGW has catalogued over 23,000 pork-barrel projects in its Congressional Pig Book. According to this year's report, the number of individual pork projects has nearly tripled in the last three years, from 2,143 to an incredible 6,333. The number of projects is up 46 percent since last year.
Examples of egregious government waste cited in the report include $550,000 for a Dr. Seuss memorial in Massachusetts, $12 million for research on wood, $400,000 for a parking lot in a town of 300 people in Alaska, $99 million to help pay for Olympics preparation in Utah and $460 million for an assault ship the Navy didn't request.
The most flagrant abuse of our tax dollars was in the Veterans Affairs/Housing and Urban Development, or VA/HUD, Appropriations bill. More than two-thirds of the 704 pork-barrel projects under the Economic Development Initiatives Program were added at the last minute.
CAGW defines pork as projects that have a limited benefit to the public at large. The projects also have limited sponsorship, are mostly of state or local interest, or are not requested by the president and get no public hearings.
The report ranks states by how much pork Members of Congress from those states stuffed into the budget, with Alaska and Hawaii topping the list. Alaska received a record $766 per person – 30 times the national average. Hawaii received $392 per person.
CAGW attributes the increase in wasteful spending over the past two years partly to deals Members of Congress struck with President Bill Clinton.
President George W. Bush has called for the establishment of a commission to eliminate pork barrel spending and identified 6,183 pork-barrel programs in the fiscal year 2001 budget. Bush has also proposed a reduction of $4.3 billion in such spending next year.
While everything in this report shouldn't be considered government waste, it should be read by all of our elected officials. CAGW's report is one of the best road maps for budget-cutters and taxpayers who are interested in making our government more efficient and cost effective.
President Bush has promised to cut pork barrel spending, but it is still too early to tell if he will keep his word. Hopefully, CAGW's vigilance will make the President and Members of Congress think twice before they waste our money.