In the first of a series of articles on earmarking, the Christian Science Monitor peers into the putrid depths of the congressional pork barrel, 2006 model. Today the paper looks at the infamous "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska, one of 6,371 "bonus projects" inserted in last year's highway bill by lawmakers eager to win points at home, the common good be damned.
That's right -- all the bracing talk of reform and self-purification that attended the fall of Jack Abramoff has come to naught: earmarks accounted for a record $29.3 billion in fiscal year 2006.
The connection between earmarking and public disdain for Congress is well established. Less understood, but no less serious (okay, a bit less serious), is the link between pork-barrel spending and the indiscriminate use of mixed metaphors. "Earmarks are like a virus," says Tom Schatz of Citizens Against Government Waste. "They cause a huge amount of wasteful spending." For Sen. Tom Coburn, they are "a gateway drug on the road to spending addiction." And in the view of the Monitor's headline writer, "the rolling pork barrel is picking up speed." Clearly, action is needed before the barrel -- or the pig? -- runs off the road.