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387 Congressmen Agree, Running up the Deficit to Pay for Pork is a Good Idea
Posted By Stephen Keen On July 29, 2008 @ 10:30 am In Ongoing Priorities | Comments Disabled
In a process familiar to any troubled sub prime borrower, the current federal highway reauthorization bill spends more money than it takes in. Historically, any excess spending is paid through the Federal Highway Trust Fund and has always been exclusively funded through the gas tax. However, in an unprecedented action, the House overwhelmingly passed  HR 6532 , a bill that would transfer over $8 billion in general revenue to the highway trust fund, adding directly to the federal deficit. The Senate is set to take up the proposal as part of a larger bill containing various tax extenders set for a cloture vote this week.
The reason for the House vote was that the Federal Highway Trust fund is set to go completely broke sometime in FY2009 as a direct result of spending on wasteful pork projects such as the now infamous “bridge to nowhere”  earmark. However, increased deficit spending was not the only option available to Congress.
Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) recently proposed , that rather than finance the trust fund with additional deficit spending, Congress should pay for the shortfall by shifting unspent pork funding to the trust fund. According to a recent review of program spending patterns done for Congressman Flake by the U.S. Department of Transportation, an estimated $11 billion in low priority and earmarked spending remains unobligated and could be redeployed to ensure trust fund solvency. The House quickly rejected this plan.
This inexcusable vote in favor of pork sadly represents the current reality facing those in favor of fiscal responsibility. 387 members of Congress, including both Republican and Democratic leadership, voted for deficit spending over the cutting of even a portion of their pork. A quick review of some the pork Congressman Flake proposed to shift funds from reveals several suspect projects:
In some cases the federal government has given so much money to programs such as the Rack-Em Up! Bike Rack & Locker Subsidy Program  that the intended recipients have trouble spending it all. This vote reflects the broad and bi-partisan decline of fiscal responsibility in Congress. With the next highway reauthorization right around the corner in 2009 true fiscal conservatives must take note. Without stronger conservative leadership, the next highway bill will be even worse.
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URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2008/07/29/387-congressmen-agree-running-up-the-deficit-to-pay-for-pork-is-a-good-idea/
URLs in this post:
 overwhelmingly passed: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2008/roll518.xml
 HR 6532: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=110_cong_bills&docid=f:h6532ih.txt.pdf
 “bridge to nowhere”: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Budget/wm889.cfm
 proposed: http://flake.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=96969
 National Packard Museum: http://packardmuseum.org/
 Rack-Em Up! Bike Rack & Locker Subsidy Program: http://coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=LatestNews.NewsStories&ContentRecord_id=2bfa14bd-802a-23ad-4cd3-b49612a34649&Issue_id=
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