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The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

The WasteWatcher

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.




Lawmakers Choose Pork Over Bridge Safety

The I-35 Bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which resulted in the deaths of 13 people, dominated several news cycles and gave politicians the kind of somber photo ops they can rarely resist.  Some, including House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), called for an increase in the federal gas tax to pay for the long-standing unmet need for bridge repair.  Congress went back to business as usual, earmarking billions of tax dollars for frivolous projects in the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill.

Catastrophic Insurance is a Disaster

Congress is considering changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) as well as increasing the availability of state-sponsored insurance funds.  Both initiatives would expose taxpayers to massive costs.

The Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2007, H.R. 3121, reauthorizes the NFIP for five years, increases NFIP borrowing authority, and makes updates to maximum insurance limits.  The bill includes multi-peril coverage under the NFIP for the first time.

New Senate Ethics Bill

“Members of Congress have reproductive organs the size of BBs,” so said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Colo.) in challenging his colleagues to enact real earmark reform.  Alas, Sen. Coburn was proven correct as the Senate voted 83-14 to approve S. 1, misnamed “the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act.”

“Nutty” Earmark Rejected By Florida County

Some times you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.  In the case of Coconut Road in Florida, even though a member of Congress felt like wasting taxpayer dollars on a highway interchange project at Coconut Road and I-75, taxpayers in Lee County, Florida did not want and the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Commission eventually voted against.

Federal Property: Wretched Excess

The United States government is seriously overdue for a garage sale.  While the government is projecting a $205 billion budget deficit for Fiscal 2007 and splurging on tens of billions of dollars in wasteful programs and congressional pork-barrel spending, it also sluggishly attempts to divest itself of billions of dollars worth of derelict or obsolete federal property.

Pennsylvania Piglet Book Reaps Savings

Pennsylvania is a study in contrasts.  The state boasts some of the most scenic highways and byways in the nation yet the roads are punctured with countless potholes.  At one end of the state there is Pittsburgh, with a winning football tradition that includes five Super Bowl titles, while at the other end is Philadelphia, which has a football team with a monkey the size of King Kong on its back.  The latest shenanigans in Harrisburg, the state capital, show that even a state budget can epitomize the best and worst of Pennsylvania.

“Bunks for Drunks:” The Real Cost of Seattle’s Social Experiment

If one lives in Seattle, there are clean, furnished apartments in the downtown area for less than $200 a month. It’s a great deal, with one catch: in order to move in, one has to be an alcoholic. Once someone qualifies and takes up residence at 1811 Eastlake, no one will ever tell him or her to stop drinking.

Taxpayers 1, Rep. Obey 0

When House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) announced his plans to wait until closed-door conference committee meetings between the House and Senate to insert earmarks into spending bills, he declared, “I don’t give a damn if people criticize me or not."

Tidbits

Congressman Kanjorski (D-Pa.) joins a mushrooming list of members of Congress whose earmarking habits are getting a lot of media attention.  Over an eight-year period, Rep. Kanjorski steered $10 million in earmarked federal funding (from the Energy and Defense Departments, as well as the Economic Development Administration) to Cornerstone Technologies, LLC, which employed his four nephews and his daughter as either owners or board members.  The ostensible purpose of the grants was to do research on using high-pressure jets of water to pulverize anthracite into microscopic particles for subsequent use in vehicle parts.  Cornerstone has now declared bankruptcy, but while contracts were flowing, the company was paying hefty salaries to at least two of Kanjorski’s nephews.  Not only was Cornerstone funded with federal contracts, one of its affiliates, Pennsylvania Micronics, run by other Kanjorski relatives, also benefited from subcontracts.  A former head of Penn State’s Energy Institute is quoted in a June 3, 2007 Scranton Times-Tribune as saying “it was like the four stooges meet anthracite.”  Which reminded us of that famous Stooges exchange between Curly and Moe in the classic film “Dizzy Pilots:”  “Vice? I have no vice. I’m pure as the driven snow,” says Curly. “Yeah, but ya drifted!” says Moe...slap! 

‘F’ is for Farm Subsidy

In anticipation in the next few weeks of markup of Title I farm subsidy programs in the House Agriculture Committee, CAGW released Making the Grade: CAGW’s Report Card on Farm Bill “Reform” Proposals. 

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