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3/7/2006 12:50:09 AM

Updated 02/24/06

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CNN Ribs Congress on Pork
“American Morning” gives free-market take on spending taxpayers’ money.

By Ken Shepherd
Free Market Project

Nov. 17, 2005

Send this page to a friend! (click here)     When teenage fashion habits are getting attention from congressional budgeters, even CNN’s “American Morning” can expose pork-barrel spending for what it is.

     Soledad O’Brien’s segment on the November 17 show gave a solid free-market perspective on taxpayer-funded projects, including money for Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere” and a grant for a Missouri community to de-Goth its teenagers.

     Noting that some Missourians were afraid teens were wearing too much black – and got money from the government to combat that threat – O’Brien made a surprisingly free-market-friendly comment. Although “these could all be really valid issues,” she said, most people would ask, “why am I paying for the teenagers in Blue Springs, Missouri, to realize there are other colors?”

     While O’Brien wondered if pork projects, however silly, are really “such a big deal” since they amount to a “tiny percentage of the budget,” Heritage Foundation Budget Analyst Brian Riedl explained the issue was bigger than a few wasted dollars here and there.

     “It's a very big deal because not only is it one percent of the budget, $27 billion, which is a lot of money, but it holds lawmakers hostage,” explained Riedl. “If you get a pork project, which virtually all of them do, you have to vote for the legislation. So lawmakers who want pork projects have to vote for all of the legislation, all of the spending bills. They basically lose their independence.”

     The end result, he concluded, is that “the entire government expands.”

     Now that the “Bridge to Nowhere” planned for rural Alaska is off the drawing board, O’Brien and Riedl were discussing where taxpayers’ money is going instead. O’Brien showed viewers how much the bridge would have set taxpayers back: “Take a look at where it would go. It’s a $223 million project for essentially what would be three miles of bridge.” She added that while “Congress put the kibosh on that, the money is not going to go to other projects, like, for example, hurricane relief for some victims there.”

     Riedl agreed that Hurricane Katrina relief could have more funding at the expense of pork projects, and aside from being politically popular, that would make more sense for repairing the Gulf Coast’s heavily damaged infrastructure. But, he explained, Alaska’s senators refused to yield any funding, “even though Alaska gets much more than any other state” in highway funding.

     O’Brien listed a few other pork spending items which have no value to the average American taxpayer:

  • $250,000 for the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in Cleveland, Ohio – which Riedl pointed out could be funded by musicians themselves instead of taxpayers
  • $50,000 for ex-cons’ tattoo removal in southern California
  • $250,000 grant to “combat teenage Goth culture” in Missouri


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