- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 14, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

With a huge Tax Day rally planned for Washington’s Freedom Plaza Thursday and another quarter-million Americans already signed up to participate in the Online Tax Revolt (at www.onlinetaxrevolt.com), more evidence accumulates that taxpayers have good reason to be angry.

Largely courtesy of the Pork Report compiled by Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, we learn that federal dollars flow directly to lobbyists and massage therapists, glass blowers and Venetian art exhibits, transportation museums and trail conferences - and for Lexuses for lawmakers whose travel tastes are luxurious. With a national debt crisis of stupendous proportions looming as a real threat, these porky expenditures and thousands like them are indefensible.

According to Thomas A. Schatz of Citizens Against Government Waste, the February 2009 stimulus package included $372 million for states to use to reduce tobacco use and obesity. Here’s the kicker: The provision specifically includes cash for “policymaker education,” which means money for advertising and lobbying directed at state lawmakers to persuade them to adopt policies against tobacco and obesity. Far from stimulating productive new jobs, these funds are lining the pockets of wealthy lobbyists who, in turn, try to persuade lawmakers to pass bills that might put fast-food restaurants - and their workers - out of business.

While federally funded lobbyists manipulate legislators, federal education funds go in huge chunks to massage-therapy schools, cosmetology academies and other “profit-making career training schools” rather than to traditional public colleges and universities, according to a March 12 report in Florida’s Herald Tribune. One AmeriCorps grant recipient in Eureka, Calif., provides low-cost professional massages to area workers as a fundraiser to secure the local “match” for federal funds. Joe Taxpayer isn’t paying for those massages directly, but surely this isn’t what Congress envisioned when it created a national service program.

Then there are the continuing boondoggles of federally funded museums and art. “I get to watch glass get blown all day,” said Claire Yuckert, a Tacoma, Wash., emcee at the local Museum of Glass, to the News Tribune. “It’s a pretty sweet gig.” That gig is a $50,000 federal stimulus grant that pays her part-time salary and one other.

Not to be outdone, the State Department is spending half a million dollars for art and architecture exhibits in Italy. As reported in The Washington Times on March 18, the program budget will include generous travel allowances of $250 per day for hotel and $90 per day for food. Then again, some lawmakers are similarly profligate with their own allowances: At least 10 members of Congress spend more than $1,000 a month to lease high-end cars, with at least three others driving in style in taxpayer-funded Lexuses.

The federal government also values older modes of transportation. Witness the Federal Highway Administration’s no-bid contract solicitation last month for a 2010 national trails symposium for hiking enthusiasts, and the $1 million federal Transportation Enhancement grant to a museum that the local Tuscaloosa News in Alabama said will feature “a 1909 Maxwell car, dioramas of Native Americans, a penny-farthing bicycle - which features an oversized front tire - and other artifacts.”

It’s no wonder taxpayers want to ride so many congressmen and bureaucrats out of town on a rail.

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