'Pig Book' is food for taxpayer outrage

Most Americans may not be fluent in the language of economics, but thanks to our Puritan heritage ("waste not, want not") we understand waste quite well.

The annual ritual of rendering unto Caesar on April 15 brings with it the always-useful "Congressional Pig Book." Compiled by Citizens Against Government Waste, the "Pig Book" lists some of the more outrageous spending indulged in by our "public servants" in pursuit of the only bipartisan activities still practiced in Washington: spending and re-election.

There are 9,129 pork barrel projects listed in the "2010 Congressional Pig Book." They represent a 10.2 percent decline from the 10,160 projects identified last year. "The reforms that were adopted when Democrats took over Congress in 2006 can be attributed to many years of work exposing earmarks," writes CAGW. Some of the more ridiculous pork projects in recent years have included $50 million for an indoor rainforest in Iowa and $500,000 for a teapot museum in North Carolina.

Even with a small reduction in pork, the CAGW found plenty left to outrage taxpayers whose money is being "spread around" to highly questionable projects. Such as:

"$2,908,000 for shrimp aquaculture research in seven states requested by two senators and five representatives. Since 1985, $74.5 million has been appropriated for this research."

"$2,573,000 for potato research in four states requested by five senators and four representatives."

In the defense category, there are earmarks "totaling $6,056,565,000 for 35 anonymous projects. This accounts for only 2 percent of the 1,752 earmarks, but 59 percent of the $10.3 billion cost of the bill, which is more than last year's 57 percent."

"$200,000 by House appropriator Marion Berry (D-Ark.) for the Arkansas Commercial Driver Training Institute at Arkansas State University-Newport. The corporate headquarters for two of the nation's largest trucking companies, J.B. Hunt Transport Inc. and ABF Freight Systems Inc., are located in Arkansas. According to Forbes.com, J.B. Hunt had sales of $3.8 billion in 2008." This is a commercial driving school for companies that make large profits. Why is the federal government helping to pay the freight?

CAGW recognizes several members of Congress, including Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) "for $200,000 for design and construction of a small business incubator and multipurpose center in Scranton, Pa."; Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) "for $490 million in pork"; Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (R-Ky.) "for $10 million for the National Institute for Hometown Security"; and my personal favorite, classified as The Narcissist Award: Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) "for $7,287,000 to continue the Harkin Grant program and to Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) for $7,000,000 for the Robert C. Byrd Institute of Advanced Flexible Manufacturing Systems."

Read more and weep at CAGW.org. It's a pittance compared to Social Security and Medicare costs, but it's our money they're misspending. We should not be less outraged with slightly less pork than last year.

Contact Thomas, a syndicated columnist, at tmseditors@tribune.com.