The number of federal pork projects increased from fewer than 2,000 annually in the mid-1990s to almost 14,000 in 2005, as measured by Citizens Against Government Waste. Other data indicate the number of federal “earmarks” increased from 4,155 in 1994 to 15,584 in 2005. . . .
In the past, the Kings of Pork were mainly Democrats such as Senator Robert Byrd of
Today, the leading pork spenders are Republicans such as Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Don Young of
This year Congress will dish out $426 billion on grants to lower levels of government for a myriad of local activities in 2005, according to the Fiscal 2006 budget.
Most earmarks fund activities that are properly the responsibility of state and local governments or the private sector. . . .
The problem starts at the top: Republican leaders have shown no personal restraint on the budget. House Speaker Dennis Hastert is a champion at bringing pork home to
Hastert’s giveaways have included trying to get United Air Lines a $1.6 billion loan guarantee and adding $250,000 to a defense bill for a candy company in his hometown to study chewing gum. The lack of principled GOP leadership has a corrosive effect on members who may be willing to support restraint but who will not put their necks on the line without sacrifice at the top. Why should rank-and-file Republicans restrain themselves when their leader is the porker-in-chief? . . .
. . . [T]he pork explosion highlights the need for Congress to overhaul its budgeting structures to get a grip on the overspending that has created huge deficits.
Republican members should insist that party leaders stop undermining restraint by using their positions for parochial gain. They ought to stop supporting leaders who call themselves conservatives just because they favor tax cuts. The real litmus test for fiscal conservatism is leadership on spending cuts and a willingness to forgo pork to set a good example for the rest of Congress.