fresh voices from the front lines of change







It’s an annual Beltway ritual. The group Citizens Against Government Waste releases the “Pig Book,” detailing all the so-called “pork” coming out of Congress. Outrage is ginned up over all the wacky things congresspeople are funding: Fruit fly research! Bear DNA! Opera houses! Green spaces!

But how exactly does CAGW decide what goes in the “Pig Book?” In their own words, any project that meets as little as one of the following criteria:

  • 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.

What’s missing that from list?

Does the project have a worthy objective? Will it contribute to our economy, our health, our safety or our environment? Is the approach a proven success?

The quality of the project is simply not a factor.

That’s an indication that rooting out actual waste is not the actual objective of the “Pig Book.” It would appear that furthering the conservative movement objective of stoking distrust in our government is really what CAGW is after. (The conservative is listed as a “partner” on the CAGW homepage.)

That’s why CAGW plays up silly sounding things like fruit fly research, even though such research helps with sustainable agriculture, controlling pests without the use of chemical pesticides.

I can’t vouch for the quality of any specific program mentioned in the Pig Book, but neither it seems, can the Pig Book authors.

Surely there’s some actual pork in the Pig Book, but also good works unfairly tarred. And surely there’s wasteful spending not mentioned in the Pig Book (subsidies to oil, drug and insurance companies; tax incentives to outsource jobs; a little disaster called Iraq) because it doesn’t meet CAGW’s process-oriented criteria.

CAGW’s credibility is further demeaned by it’s history lobbying for tobacco companies and agribusiness. (See the great reports from the St. Petersburg Times, via Daily Kos’ tojojo.) It’s not interested in a government that works for everyone, but a government that works for it clients.

Progressives should certainly stand against real wasteful spending, be it a “bridge to nowhere” or a destabilizing occupation. It’s critical for voters to know that the progressive vision for our government invests our money wisely, not spends it recklessly.

But the “Pig Book” is not a serious attempt to root out waste. It’s merely a front for undermining trust in our government as an agent for change.

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