By Cal Thomas
There are many addictions besides drugs, sex and power. There is also our increasing addiction to debt. According to Money Magazine, reporting on figures from the New York Fed, “Americans’ debt hit a new high of $13 trillion last year, surpassing the previous record set in 2008 by $280 billion.”
On a personal level, individual American debt averages $7,800, according to the U.S. Census. Credit card debt and student loans account for a good portion of it, depending on one’s age, with people 75 and older having the least debt and middle aged and younger people having the most.
This is chump change when it comes to spending by the federal government. Citizens Against Government Waste has just published its annual Pig Book, detailing wasteful and unnecessary pork barrel spending by politicians.
To raise your outrage to its proper level, the book needs to be read in its entirety, but here are just a few of its lowlights. Remember “earmarks,” those spending additions to bills that resemble leeches on one’s body? A “moratorium” was placed on them in fiscal year 2011, but Members of Congress have been pressuring their leadership to get rid of them so that they might resume bragging to constituents how they are “bringing home the bacon.”
According to CAGW, 282 earmarks were added to spending bills in the fiscal 2019 budget, a 21.6 percent increase from fiscal 2018. That cost taxpayers $15.3 billion in additional money we don’t have and must borrow. Earmarks are added in secret, so their authors are unknown to the public. How’s that for transparency?
Seven earmarks were added for the overpriced, over budget and overdue F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (total $1.8 billion), “including eight additional planes for the Air Force, six for the Navy, and two for the Marine Corps. In development for nearly 18 years and eight years behind schedule, total acquisition costs now exceed $428 billion; nearly double the initial estimate of $233 billion. A 2019 DOD Selected Acquisition Report noted that the F-35’s lifetime operation and maintenance costs will total approximately $1.2 trillion, the most expensive weapon system in U.S. history.”
This is the Pentagon’s equivalent of California’s ludicrous $77 billion high-speed rail project, which at least has been sharply cut back. Unfortunately, when it comes to federal spending, failure is never a sufficient reason to stop.
Speaking of the West Coast, how about this one — $65 million for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. “For the third consecutive year,” notes the Pig Book, “President Trump’s budget recommended eliminating its funding because it favors state, local, and/or industry interests, and are ‘not optimally targeted … favor certain species and geographic areas over others,’ and do not direct funds to programs and projects that have ‘the greatest need or potential benefit.’” When it comes to spending, logic never wins.
Here’s a favorite: $13.8 million for wild horse and burro management (largest amount ever). Since FY 1992, Congress has added earmarks totaling $18 million for this program. Perhaps if Congress looked at the south end of these animals they would see their own reflection, which is the image many Americans have of them.
One more (but there are many more): $12 million for the aquatic plant control program, the largest amount ever. Since FY 1994, aquatic plant control projects have been earmarked by Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Spending is always bipartisan.
Historically, a contributing factor to the decline of great nations has been massive and uncontrolled debt. We are headed for a similar abyss. Read the Pig Book, be outraged and then vote them out of office.
This year marks Cal Thomas’ 35th year as a syndicated columnist. Readers may email Cal Thomas at [email protected]