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EDITORIAL: Drinking away millions

- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 11, 2010

In light of President Obama's stunningly huge, $3.8 trillion budget proposal for next year, it is worth revisiting the porky sorts of things that have polluted federal outlays in the recent past. The Pork Report, distributed semiregularly by Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, shows there's plenty of slop in the trough. The following few examples are representative of an endless stream of waste that characterizes government spending in our age of graft and indiscipline.

Two weeks ago, for instance, the Senate voted against a proposal to reduce the 6 percent increase in the budget Congress gives itself for salaries, equipment and random expenses, which sometimes include flowers and receptions. Considering that prices on average fell last year by 0.34 percent, any increase for coddled members of Congress in the midst of a recession should be seen as an affront. An extra $245 million is effrontery to the max.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi charged taxpayers $2.1 million for use of Air Force jets during the past two years. The charges include $101,000 in "in-flight services" that reportedly included Maker's Mark, Jack Daniels and Jim Beam whiskeys, Beefeater and Bombay Sapphire gin, Courvoisier cognac and other fancy food and liquor. The taxpayer-funded military flights included 31 trips with members of her family on board. This recession sure seems like a good time to be a public servant, but the white-glove transportation begs a question: Since when is it impossible for a speaker to fly commercial? It says a lot about the tone deafness of our pampered political class that elected officials on the public dole live higher on the hog than ever while Americans suffer through the worst economy in decades.

Federal stimulus funds this year will pay $98,500 for new signs, maps and an iPhone application for a wine-tasting trail in Monterey County, Calif. (With apologies to John Steinbeck, one wonders if this pork could cause frustrated taxpayers to have wrath for grapes.) But that's nothing compared to the $54 million in stimulus funds being used for a "wine train" tourist attraction in Napa. It's a privately owned project, and company Chief Executive Samuel Boyle lives not in Northern California but in South Carolina - where his last venture, a dot-com for sailboaters, sank like a rock. But wait - it gets better. The wine-train company, Suulutaaq Inc., got the award in part by taking advantage of special federal contracting privileges granted to native Alaskans, who in this case make up most of the corporate ownership.

All of these political shenanigans are enough to drive anyone to drink. They are financed, remember, through taxes confiscated from American workers or from those workers' children and grandchildren who are yet to be born. Surely those taxpayers should not be made to suffer politicos and failed yachtsmen wining and dining on their tab.