Waste is getting worse in Congress, according to a watchdog group that has issued a report on projects it labels a misuse of taxpayer dollars.
“Pushing pork does not drain the swamp and it won’t restore integrity to Washington,” Tom Schatz, the president of Citizens Against Government Waste, said in a statement Wednesday as his group released its 2019 Congressional Pig Book, according to Fox News.
The group focuses heavily on what are known as earmarks – spending proposals put in the federal budget not necessarily because anyone needs them, but because a legislator wants them. Although banned in theory by Congress, Citizens Against Government Waste said the proposals have returned in practice and are growing year by year.
Citizens Against Government Waste said the federal budget for fiscal year 2019 had $15.3 billion in earmarks, up 4.1 percent from $14.7 billion in fiscal 2018.
In lambasting Congress for setting aside taxpayer cash for pet projects, Schatz said in an Op-Ed for the Fox Business Network that “earmarks still corrupt Congress, waste taxpayer money and erode trust in government.”
In his Op-Ed, Schatz quoted the late Sen. John McCain, quoting the Arizona Republican as having said, “The problem with all their arguments is: the more powerful you are, the more likely it is you get the earmark in. Therefore, it is a corrupt system.”
Schatz bestowed the title of “perhaps the most flagrant earmark” on $16.7 million for a research organization called the East-West Center, an earmark of Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii.
“His earmark represents the center’s entire budget, keeping it alive even though its counterpart, the North-South Center, stopped receiving federal funding in 2001. The East-West Center should be able to stand on its own without taxpayer support as well,” the Op-Ed said.
Citizens Against Government Waste also noted that the budget includes $9 million to fight fruit flies.
“After a 10-year furlough, members of Congress have returned to the trenches in the war against fruit flies. The $9 million earmarked in FY 2019 represents an 1,819 percent increase from the $469,000 in FY 2009, the last earmark provided for fruit fly research, eradication, or quarantine. It is also the third-largest earmark ever for this purpose,” the report said, noting that since 1991, taxpayers have ponied up $39.2 million for fruit fly research.
The report also savaged the collective spending of $1.8 billion for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
“In development for nearly 18 years and eight years behind schedule, total acquisition costs now exceed $428 billion, nearly double the initial estimate of $233 billion. A 2019 DOD Selected Acquisition Report noted that the F-35’s lifetime operation and maintenance costs will total approximately $1.2 trillion, the most expensive weapon system in U.S. history,” the report said.
The report noted that the budget includes $65 million for Pacific coastal salmon recovery, even though President Donald Trump’s reforms called for the program to be cut.
Just over $1 billion was set aside in the Army Corps of Engineers budget for 18 earmarks.
“Legislators have long treated the Army Corps of Engineers as a prime repository of pork, and it is among the most heavily earmarked areas of the federal budget. Since FY 1996, members of Congress have added 6,948 earmarks for the Corps, costing taxpayers $14.7 billion,” the report said.
The 2019 budget included $13.8 million for wild horse and burro management, leading the report to note, “Wild horses couldn’t drag members of Congress away from this wasteful spending.”
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