Pork! The Unkicked Habit.

We've all heard the rallying cry of the last couple of sessions of Congress, haven't we? "We must balance the budget, no matter what!" was generally how it went.

The consensus seemed to be that all federal spending was subject to "reform" in order that Congress and the President find a way to meet that suddenly hallowed goal. The first programs to be attacked with the budget cleaver were, of course, those parts of the budget which fed and clothed and housed the poorest citizens of the nation. Since the most destitute of Americans seldom voted, they were the ideal candidates on which to lay the burden of "fiscal reform". Anyway, since Congress had already enacted legislation which forced them to decrease spending somewhere every time they increased it somewhere else, they forced themselves to cut social welfare in order to increase Corporate welfare.

Next, Congress, in its infinite wisdom, passed the line-item veto, allowing the President to exclude those pork projects that Congress couldn't stop itself from passing. This act had the side benefit of allowing Congress to blame the President should a budget pass without the pork many districts have come to depend on. Naturally, the first opportunity that the President had to flex his fiscally restraining muscles saw him delete all of approximately .001% of all spending. Well, lo and behold, the 1999 budget showed an actual surplus of funds, due to the artificially inflated Gross National Product and the resulting increase in tax revenues. The amount, approximately $18 billion, was the subject of much debate as to who would control its spending. Various proposals were floated which would have made a tremendous amount of sense such as applying the sum towards the deficit or adding it to the Social Security fund or Medicare or even allowing an increase in spending on the poor (an idea floated by the Democrats but very quickly shot down by the majority leadership).

Well, gentle readers, the debate is over. No, the surplus will not be going towards any of the programs which are in desperate need of funds. Instead, the budget will no longer even show a surplus but, rather, will show a deficit, again. A deficit, that is, until Congress decides which non-Corporate Welfare programs to once again cut.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the line item veto unconstitutional, Congress is reverting to its old, wasteful ways. Having gotten elected by complaining about the huge pork barrel programs of the "liberals", Congress is finding itself wallowing in the same desire to spend more than they promised.

Where is this pork going? Well, to be fair, every single one of the 435 Congressional districts will be well fed, no matter what party is in office. What program is the pork going to be added to? The ISTEA (Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act) or, in plain English, highway funds.

This bill, which was brought to the floor of the Senate by Trent Lott to distract attention from his refusal to even allow debate on Campaign Finance Reform, began as a $141 billion expenditure and has now risen in the Senate to over $173 billion. Not to be outdone on bringing home the bacon to their districts, the House has increased their demand to over $181.9 billion.

Now, even this columnist readily accepts the proposition that America's infrastructure, in particular its highways, is deteriorating and in desperate need of repair. Our bridges are still actually in danger of collapsing in earthquakes and, in some instances, simply from lack of maintenance. To repair these problems might seem like a fine idea but have you wondered where the excess funds will be taken from to assure the budget remains balanced?

Well, according to Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R - New Mexico), cutting $10 billion to $17 billion in benefits to America's military veterans who suffer from smoking related disabilities would be a fine idea. This heartless and mean spirited suggestion would outright kill tens of thousands of American veterans who, in many instances, were introduced and addicted to cigarettes by the government's inclusion of tobacco products in the military's C- and K-rations issued to our soldiers. Fairness (a word Republicans like Domenici consider "liberal") would dictate that, since the governments is directly responsible for the diseases, the governments must be accountable for taking care of those who eventually suffered from the addiction's effects. The problem, as usual, is that those who are desperately ill seldom vote so they provide an excellent sacrificial lamb to these clown's re-election campaigns and a splendid target for achieving their sacred balanced budget. Kids, always remember that this is what they mean when they tell you to "Be, all that you can be". What you will be is forgotten and ignored and dead.

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Copyright 3/20/98