January 26, 2004
"Mad Hog Disease" Infects Congress
by Donald G. Mashburn

We’ve weathered, so far, “Mad Cow Disease” found in Washington state, mainly because large portions of the population were not affected. But we taxpayers are all affected by the “Mad (Tax) Hog Disease” that infects Congress. The Mad (Tax) Hogs contaminate the political process by wasteful spending called “pork.”

The disease is found in every state, particularly those whose members of Congress have been in Washington the longest. The oldest Tax Hogs can deliver more pork than new wannabes, particularly to special interests and favored constituents.

Tax hogs feed on government appropriations, such as the pending omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 2673) to fund government for the coming year. The bill is larded with pork, slipped in by members of Congress and “earmarked” for specific purposes and organizations.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the $820 billion spending bill is “studded with special interest pork-barrel spending. He added, "It's hard to pick the ugliest pig in this sty."

Some examples, reported by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, show how the “disease” infects Congress and affects taxpayers’ pocketbooks:

There’s the $250,000 project, “Preventing youth smoking in Alaska.” Now why are the bad habits of youth in Alaska worthy of federal funds? What about the countless young people in the Lower 48 that smoke, or those doing their best to develop mouth cancer from using smokeless tobacco?

More to the point, why doesn’t Alaska use some of its oil royalty money, instead of paying an annual “dividend” – some $8,000 per household by 2002 – to all citizens?

Alaska leads the nation in pork per capita, some $273 per citizen, compared with the national average of $16. Having Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, doesn’t seem to hurt the state’s pork ration.

The Mad Hogs also allow other states to eat high on the hog. Missouri got in on the pork picnic with $12.4 million “To convert waste from chicken-processing factories.” Taxpayers should ask why chicken processors couldn’t clean up their own mess, since they’re the ones who make the waste by killing chickens and selling useful parts for profit.

In New York, a Bronx youth group, “Sistas and Brothas United,” is to receive $50,000. What about the countless thousands of “sistas” and “brothas” from Maine to California that could find ways to spend fifty grand?

Saint Augustine, Florida’s “First Tee” youth golf program lands $2,000,000 of our tax money. Members of Congress should have to explain why the federal government uses our money to fund youth golf – anywhere! After all, it’s not as if golf contributes much to the security, well-being, or more efficient operation of the nation.

Then there’s the $250,000 for “Theater construction, Studio for the Arts, Pocahontas, Ark.” I don’t try to follow such things, but as far as I know, Pocahontas (population about 6,000) is not exactly an art center essential to the national interest.

Nor is a $325,000 swimming pool for Salinas, California, although it will probably see more use than Pocahontas’ art center.

The system is broken – and rotten to the core. Conservative budget watchers like the Heritage Foundation’s Brian Riedl, a federal budget analyst, think the real problem is that neither party is serious about reducing federal spending, nor cutting the porkly presents congressional members pass out to favored supporters.

Career politicians are a huge part of the problem. Reidl says, “The longer they are here, ... the more difficult it becomes to say no to anyone.” He added, "Everyone wants to be Santa Claus."

The only “cure” for Mad Tax Hogs” is radical surgery by voters to remove from Congress infected big spenders. To prevent the spread of Mad Cow Disease, “downers” – cattle that can’t stand – are eliminated as a food source.

Similarly, “downers” in Congress – those who can’t stand for less government, less spending, and an empty pork barrel – should eliminated.