Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dumb Pigs?

I hate to see government waste. I also dislike populist bullies, and those who build reputation by deceiving people.

What of the folk who publish The Congressional Pig Book Summary?

I've not been directly involved or affected, but their annual lists get a lot of attention. As with former Sen. William Proxmire's "Golden Fleece Awards" they incite populist rage, but the background story & scientific reasoning often gets trampled unheard. Perhaps the unwritten criterion for being included with the piggy "most egregious" projects is to be ha ha ha funny. For example, their work criticizes "$1.8 million for swine odor and manure management research in Iowa." Hilarious, if you live in Manhattan or Washington DC or Beverly Hills... but where do those deli goods and shrink-wrapped meats come from? Stinky factory farms pollute their surroundings unless highly regulated (also expensive). Horrible smells negatively effect health and property values. Perhaps public spending to alleviate stench is not unreasonable.

Citizens Against Government Waste explain how a project gets included - by meeting just one of their criteria: "The 1,188 projects, totaling $2.8 billion, in this year’s Congressional Pig Book Summary symbolize the most egregious and blatant examples of pork. As in previous years, all of the items in the Congressional Pig Book Summary meet at least one of CAGW’s seven criteria, but most satisfy at least two:

* Requested by only one chamber of Congress;
* Not specifically authorized;
* Not competitively awarded;
* Not requested by the President;
* Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;
* Not the subject of congressional hearings; or
* Serves only a local or special interest."

To rewrite, they require a project fulfill all the below criteria or it can get put in their stupid pig book:

* Requested by both chambers of Congress;
* Specifically authorized;
* Competitively awarded;
* Requested by the President;
* Can't greatly exceed Presidential budget request or previous year’s funding.

Is this reasonable?
Should wasteful spending in their own offices be examined? Why is CAGW situated in the heart of Washington D.C.? With cheap electronic communications, why not move to cheaper office space in say Ames, Iowa - complete with disagreeable pig shit smell...
CAGW's own overall budget is $5 million; should we speak of their "Five-million dollar Pig Book?"

After venting such responses, in fact I appreciate the energies and effort of the CAGW, and respect what they seem to be trying to do. But it is easy to blindside geeky researchers. Why not focus a bit more on the military - that's the real Pork Base / Camp Pork...