You are hurting. Your retirement fund has been cut in half. The value of your home has been slashed. You may be upside down on your mortgage. Someone in the family has been laid off from work. The price of basic necessities has soared.
Christmas is going to be rather sparse this year but, fear not, your government is here to help you. Yes, your dear Uncle Sam has some gifts for you, practical gifts that every sensible taxpayer can use and appreciate.
Before you accuse me of sipping too much eggnog or sniffing the brandy-soaked fruit cake, I readily admit that I have been dreaming. Instead of sugar plums dancing in my head, I see citizen legislators – the kind our founding fathers envisioned with they drafted the Constitution and set up our system of government.
It must be this holiday, seeped in tradition, that made me long for the good old days when Christmas trees were lit with candles, sleigh rides were the practical mode of winter transportation and legislators met for only a few days a year to take care of the necessary business of the country and then went home to real jobs.
Make no mistake, your legislators have been buying expensive gifts for you over this past year, but not the kind I outlined above. In fact, their wasteful spending during this economic crisis knew no bounds.
Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has delivered a lump of coal to his colleagues as they head home for the holidays in the form of a 50-page report on the “2008: Worst Waste of the Year.”
Check out this short list of “must haves” from the people you sent to Washington:
• $82 million in loans for 331 liquor stores like Pistol’s Pete’s Beef N’ Beer and Spanky’s Liquor World.
• $298,068 to an Idaho farmer to advertise his speciality potatoes to high-end restaurants.
• $188,000 for the Lobster Institute in Maine, which is so flush that it has its own under sea “LobsterCam.”
• $24.6 million to the National Park Service to plan its 100th year anniversary in 2016.
• $2.4 million for a retractable shade canopy at a park in West Virginia.
• $1 million for bike paths on Louisiana levees, while those critical levees await basic repairs.
• $3.2 million on a high altitude spy blimp (25 times larger than the Goodyear blimp) that the Pentagon does not want.
• $367,000 to a Texas school board that spent it on things like an inflatable alligator and an under-the-sea water slide.
• $500,000 for a rest stop for bicyclists, which includes showers, on a 5.5 mile bike path in Minneapolis. (How tied and sweaty can you get on this short ride around town?)
• $150,000 to count barns in Vermont and collect stories about them.
• $15,000 for voice mail for the homeless in Summit County, Ohio.
• $784,000 on training classes for casino workers in Kansas City, Kansas.
• $9.4 million to send radio signals to aliens who may be in outer space.
• $167,290 by various federal agencies on portrait paintings for Cabinet officers.
In view of the $455 billion budget deficit this year— the largest in the nation’s history ($639 billion if you include the Social Security and Medicare surplus) shouldn’t we be photographing cabinet officers instead of paying for expensive paintings?
Senator Coburn is the Ranking Member on the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management. Coburn is a rare bird. In fact, he is just the kind of legislator our founding fathers had in mind. He is the only senator who currently maintains a real job. He flies home to Muskogee, Oklahoma on weekends to attend to his medical practice and deliver babies. This irks his colleges no end because his votes are not for sale. In fact, they brought him up before the ethics committee because he charged for his medical services in order to pay his malpractice insurance.
Coburn, who term-limited himself, will tell you that his goal in running for this high office was not to be a United States senator but to change the Senate. He can’t do that without your help. You need to make sure that all those senators who are slipping these disgraceful projects into the federal budget get real jobs, permanently.
If you’d like to track these projects, it’s easier now. In 2006, Coburn joined forces with Barack Obama to create http://www.USAspending.gov. He’s already working with the Obama team to help track duplicate and wasteful programs.
The pig on the front of the Coburn report is decked out in a Santa Clause hat. Even without the yuletide chapeau, you’ll see red when you read it.