WASHINGTON -- March 3 -- The House emergency spending bill contains billions of dollars in spending to refill depleted defense accounts for Iraq and Afghanistan that were cut in this year's defense spending bill to make room a record increase in local pork projects, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a non-partisan budget watchdog organization.
"They have been robbing Peter to pay for pork," said Keith Ashdown, Vice President of Policy for Taxpayers for Common Sense. "The end result is that we end up paying billions more for this mammoth emergency spending bill that creates a crater-sized hole in the budget deficit." If enacted, this supplemental spending bill will bring the cost of the War on Terror to more than $275 billion.
In an analysis released today, Taxpayers for Common Sense found that the defense bill contained 2,671 earmarks worth $12.2 billion, both record highs. To pay for this largesse, House lawmakers cut $2.2 billion in funds for operations and maintenance and other readiness accounts that pay for the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. In all, largely through the use of budgetary gimmicks, the House cut $8.5 billion out of defense accounts in the entire bill.
These cuts in important readiness accounts made room for thousands of projects inserted at the request of individual lawmakers, including $1.9 million for a Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Celebration, $1.5 million for a virtual reality spray paint simulator system, and $1 million for a biathlon trail upgrade at Fort Richardson, Alaska. Representatives sitting on the Appropriations Committee reaped the lion's share of benefits.
"Smoke and mirrors budgeting has obscured the true 'emergency' cost of the War on Terror," continued Ashdown. "Essentially, we are paying back money we cut from the defense bill to subsidize Congress' addiction to pork."
Moving money to the supplemental with one hand and adding parochial interest funding with the other is an end run around the budgetary process. Lawmakers get to put out a bill that looks fiscally responsible, when, in reality, they have simply set us up for a bigger emergency spending bill. "They are trying to have their cake and eat it too." Ashdown said, "This is an attempt to increase the size of the defense bill, while ignoring any budget discipline and claiming that they are being fiscally responsible."
The effort to document the location of every parochial sweetener in the defense bill took Taxpayers for Common Sense seven months and hundreds of hours of research by half-a-dozen researchers to complete. It is the most comprehensive review ever provided on which states win and which states lose in the earmarking of defense dollars. The complete database provides a previously unprecedented level of transparency for the defense spending bill and clearly shows how committee assignments and political muscle translate into big bucks for a few lawmakers' lucky constituents.
For a copy of the 2005 defense earmark database, please visit http://www.taxpayer.net
Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) is a non-partisan budget watchdog. TCS is dedicated to cutting wasteful spending and subsidies in order to achieve a responsible and efficient government that lives within its means.