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Inaction Plan, Pork Plea, Plus a German Postscript
[excerpt from column]

Cragg Hines

Houston Chronicle

September 20, 2005

[Note: This material is copyright by the Houston Chronicle, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of Houston Chronicle.]


Among the civic-spirited responses to Katrina, a new campaign on the early-morning Squawkbox show on CNBC seems an exceptionally fine use of the airwaves.

Each day, Squawk host Mark Haines has begun calling on specific members of Congress to give up some egregious pork project from their state or district in the name of the paying for the federal response to Katrina. First up on the "pork patrol" was the wholly egregious bridge to practically nowhere in Alaska, for which $223 million in federal funds has been dedicated.

Highlighted Tuesday was $50 million for a five-acre, indoor rain forest in Coralville, Iowa, a pet pig of Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

After the project died along with the Energy Policy Act of 2003, Grassley larded the money into the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2004.

I've known many a presidential campaign day in wintry Iowa when a brief stint in a rain forest would have been appealing. But in terms of a federal deficit that will explode further because of Katrina, the project is not appealing but appalling.

You don't have to agree with reality-based humorist Dave Barry that by buying the project Congress proved it's "as trustworthy with money as a crack addict." But he may have a point.

(In reporting this item, I discovered that the project is managed by a well-connected longtime Republican acquaintance of mine. I wish him all the best in another venture.)

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