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Friday, December 03, 2004

Wild Hog Control (or the Lack Thereof) 

Courtesy of our esteemed colleague Prometheus 6, a reminder that one of the primary functions of government is to keep you from finding out where all the money goes:
The pork-stuffed omnibus spending bill that Congress rushed to passage without reading largely remains a $388 billion national secret. But laugh lines are gradually leaking out. For instance, why not spend $100,000 for the Punxsutawney Weather Museum in Pennsylvania, considering the annual drollery of Groundhog Day? And once the lawmakers put the taxpayers in for $25,000 to finance mariachi music in Nevada, hey, why not go for $350,000 for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland? As for that $50,000 for wild hog control in Missouri, it's in the same spirit as the $335,000 to protect sunflowers from blackbirds in North Dakota . . . .

Nowhere is this more graphic than in the shocking cut that Congress levied on the National Science Foundation, the research dynamo that does so much to feed the nation's economic growth through breakthrough advances in science and technology. Its budget will be $105 million less than last year's, even as lawmakers spared an estimated $15.8 billion for a record 11,772 pet projects. This binge of bipartisan pandering to voters includes such national priorities as renovating the Hot Springs bathhouses in Arkansas and bolstering the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame in Wisconsin.

The science cut may seem minor in the context of the foundation's total, more than $5.4 billion. But it signals harsher times to come. For the past two years, a profligate Republican Congress has allowed the deficit to balloon by papering over such factors as the open-ended cost of the Iraq war and the revenues lost because of the Bush tax cuts. Now leaner, meaner government has become the rhetorical rage, with basic institutions like the Environmental Protection Agency and the affordable-housing program joining the science foundation in taking hits.

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