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March Madness

Has Washington's appetite for pork really abated?

Issue: "Building a city," March 24, 2007

It's time for that annual ritual known as March Madness. No, this March Madness isn't about college basketball. It's about how much money Congress plans to attach to appropriations bills to curry favor back home with pet projects.

My favorite Washington watchdog group, Citizens Against Government Waste, has just published its annual "Pig Book," which chronicles some of the most outrageous and wasteful government spending.

After seven years of record-setting pork, the "2007 Congressional Pig Book" reports a decline in pork spending, thanks largely to Republican Senators Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, and Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who prevented nine appropriations bills from being enacted last December. Some credit also goes to two Democrats, David Obey of Wisconsin, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, and the king of pork, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, both of whom imposed a moratorium on earmarks for the remainder of fiscal 2007.

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This is a new fiscal year and pork to a member of Congress is like a chocolate cream pie to someone on a diet. The temptation can be too great to resist.

The biggest temptation to lard on more pork-and thus an indication of just how serious the Democrats are about real spending reform-will come as soon as Congress takes up the president's war supplemental appropriations bill. President Bush has proposed $99.6 billion in supplemental spending for the global war on terror and an additional $3.4 billion for reconstruction related to Hurricane Katrina.

Brian Riedl of The Heritage Foundation says among the rumored add-ons are between $5 billion and $7 billion in farm subsidies (even though farm incomes are at record highs), $1 billion for the State Children's Health Insurance Program, $1 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (I thought Joe Kennedy and Hugo Chavez were helping with that), and many more questionable expenditures that find their way into appropriations bills.

There's so much more and it's all in the "Pig Book" and on the Heritage website (heritage.org). If you care how your money is often misspent and you want to keep the Democrats from following the Republicans, who followed the Democrats in larding up appropriations bills, you will inform yourself and act accordingly.

-© 2007 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.

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