In her signature dry, understated style, anonymous liberal blogger MTCowgirl took Democrats and the Montana press to task yesterday for failing to report on the latest “Pig Book” published by Citizens Against Government Waste, a Washington-based taxpayer watchdog group, which came out back in April. The Pig Book summarizes the more than 9,000 projects, costing more than $16.5 billion, in the 12 appropriations acts passed by Congress in fiscal year 2010. Why is MTCowgirl so incensed? Because Montana Republican Congressman Denny Rehberg received the most pork projects of any lawmaker in the House with 88. (I actually couldn’t find Rehberg’s ranking in the Pig Book summary but the National Journal reports it here.)
Interestingly, the Pig Book also reports Montana ranks 7th among states in receiving the most porkbarrel spending, per capita, receiving $100,400,450. That’s $105.03 per Montana citizen, nearly four times the national average of $27.36 per person. Compare that to New York’s $14.48 per person, or Wyoming’s $12.28. (Those numbers come from page 65 of the Pig Book summary PDF, which you can download here.)
As for Rehberg, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, he has since sworn of all such spending as he runs for reelection at a time when the economy and federal debt and deficit are key issues. Before too much steam over government spending comes out of your ears, it’s worth noting the $16.5 billion for earmarks is a small but symbolically significant portion of the $3.6 trillion total budget. Here’s what Rehberg said in April, when I interviewed him and asked him about how his temporarily swearing off earmarks, a relative drop in the bucket, might help to curtail federal spending.
“Everybody says, ‘Oh, that’s a pittance.’ OK, so a pittance doesn’t matter? Alright. Good. Why don’t you go ahead and give me that billion dollars from Montana and the billion across the country because for every dollar Montana gets remember, I’m just one of 435, and then there are a hundred senators,” he said. “So all of a sudden, it starts adding up.”
“The next piece of legislation we’re going to introduce is to say any of the money saved from not earmarking then has to go to debt retirement, then the next step is zero-based budgeting,” Rehberg added. “What you do is you incrementally build the opportunity to balance the budget.”
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