Tuesday, August 1, 2017
If you judge someone by their enemies, Tom Schatz is Robin Hood of the swamp, joined by his merry band of government analysts.
Targeting piggish U.S. senators, representatives and the hometown troughs into which they dump your tax dollars, Schatz is the president of Citizens Against Government Waste, which can easily be judged by some of its most vocal critics.
The late Ted Stevens, a corrupt Republican senator whose personal gain from the public trust earned him the enmity of honest brokers in his own party, is proudly quoted in the organization's latest Pig Book growling, "All they are is a bunch of psychopaths."
Legendary glutton and the late "King of Pork," Democratic Senator Robert Byrd, whose name humbly adorns countless West Virginia government buildings, parks, rest stops and likely more than a few outhouses, complained, "Those peckerwoods don't know what they're doing. They don't. They're not being realistic."
It's unknown if this is the only time the word, "peckerwood" was proudly broadcast on National Public Radio.
The reason the little pink pamphlet is so important is because it outlines not only "earmarked" spending that senators and representatives send to their home states with little or no oversight - and certainly no open competition for testing the validity of such spending - but also the effects this has on everyday life.
For example, Citizens Against Government Waste's Pig Book explains that the Airport and Airways Trust Fund (AATF) wastes millions of dollars financing infrastructure at airports in such a way that it actually prevents competition among airlines at airports.
The AATF allows only limited spending on maintenance and improvements, limiting the number of gates airports can build.This forces airports to ration gate access through long-term contracts, creating an impossible financial barrier for potential competitors. Meanwhile in Europe, many countries have freed their airports, resulting in more competition and lower airfares.
Want to know who earmarked millions of tax dollars for theaters, museums, opera houses and mansions that charge the public over $70,000 for weddings and events? It's in there.
The good news is that many earmarks have been reduced in the 2017 budget. The bad news is that congress critters will tell you that they enacted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011, even though Citizens Against Government Waste found billions in such earmarks ever since 2011.
$6 million may not seem like much in terms of federal spending, which is pathetic in itself. Consider hundreds of $6 million throw-away projects and now you see the problem.
One such problem is Hawaii's "East-West Center."
Even the State Department doesn't think the U.S. needs a center in Hawaii to promote
better relations with Pacific and Asian nations.
Apparently, someone's family member needs a job, because it was built in 1960 anyway and continues to suck away your tax dollars every year.
Schatz and his team point out that the North-South Center in Miami is very similar, designed to somehow build better relations between the U.S., Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada through cooperative study, training and research.
The 2009 Congressional Research Service Report came right out and said it hasn't funded the North-South Center since 2001 and should continue not funding it. "It should be funded by the private sector."
That's pretty much the description of the East-West Center, too.
However, Democrat Brian Schatz, who represents Hawaii, sure does a fine job of larding up the center, continuing the pork tradition of spewing over $138 million into the center since 1997.
If your taxes are going up with no improvement in services, you need to pay attention to Citizens Against Government Waste and vote accordingly.
They give you an excellent resource, naming Republicans and Democrats who need to be loudly excoriated for pimping the system, then replacing it at the next election.
As for the Robin Hood analogy, consider this description made years ago by an former economics professor of mine at the University of Missouri:
"Robin Hood stole from the government, not rich people. All those rich folks from whom Robin stole were friends of the Nottingham Sheriff; cronies. They did the bidding of the government and so the government did theirs. They were not independent, wealthy individuals. They were a part of the Sheriff's fascist government."
Contact Rick Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @Jensen1150WDEL.