Op-ed: Congress still wasting taxpayers’ money

  • By Cal Thomas
  • Saturday, April 16, 2016 6:11pm
  • Opinion

As the tax deadline approaches it’s once again time to consider how the federal government wastes our money.

Remember the spending caps that were supposed to keep Congress from overspending? Gone with the wind.

How about the promise Republicans made about no more earmarks on spending bills? It disappeared almost as fast as a gold coin in a magician’s hands. Of course, they are not calling these new and improved earmarks earmarks. They call them something else, so they can claim they are keeping their promise. Is it any wonder this political season is characterized by voter anger?

Just in time for Tax Day comes the annual Pig Book 2016. For more than two decades Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonprofit organization that, according to its website, advocates for the “…the elimination of waste and inefficiency in government through lobbying and grassroots activities,” has published this useful guide, which illustrates just some of the ways our elected representatives waste the money we send them.

A few examples will set the tone, but you should read it all. It should embarrass every member of Congress who voted for this unnecessary and wasteful stuff, but, unfortunately, they are beyond embarrassment.

Here are a few of the categories.

Defense: “$255,000,000 for two additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft for the Navy. The acquisition misadventures of the JSF program have been well-documented. In development for nearly 15 years and four years behind schedule, the program is approximately $170 billion over budget and has encountered an abundance of persistent issues. An April 2015 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report noted that the lifetime operation and maintenance costs of the most expensive weapon system in history will total approximately $1 trillion.”

In February 2014, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Frank Kendall referred to the purchase of the F-35 as “acquisition malpractice.”

Agriculture: “$3,000,000 for the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), which also received a $3 million earmark in the Agriculture Appropriations bill in FYs 2014 and 2015. However, in FY 2016, the DRA received an additional earmark costing $10,064,000 in the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, for a combined total of $13,064,000, an increase of 335.5 percent over the past earmarks.”

“According to the Republican Study Committee’s FY 2016 budget, funding for the DRA should be terminated because such regional commissions are duplicative of other federal programs and support mostly local projects. Support for cutting DRA funds is bipartisan, as President Obama’s FY 2017 version of Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings recommended reducing the agency’s budget by $3 million annually.”

We’ll wait to see if that happens, but based on past experience Congress doesn’t like to let go of money, even borrowed money.

Commerce, Justice Science: “Since FY 2002, members of Congress have directed 19 earmarks costing taxpayers $186 million for research facility construction at NIST in Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina, Virginia, and Puerto Rico. These include two earmarks costing $60 million by Senate Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), and four earmarks totaling $19.5 million by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).”

“Sen. Cochran requested 709 earmarks costing taxpayers $1.9 billion between FYs 2008-2010, the three years in which members were required to identify their earmark requests. He requested both the highest number and dollar amount of earmarks in each of these years, making him the “King of Pork” for that period of time.”

Visit CAGW.org to read the rest. There you will find many more examples of your hard-earned tax dollars not working.

Presidential candidates are again debating how high, or how low, the federal income tax should be. They have it backward. Voters should tell politicians how much of our money we will allow them to spend and on what. It’s our money, not theirs and politicians ought to live within our means. But that would require asking less of government and more of ourselves.

Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.

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