BETWEEN CLASSES: Government is eager to hand out the ‘big money’

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Ever since the Great Depression, the U.S. government has been known for its big spending.

Over the years, this spending has shifted quietly from funding renewable infrastructure to ineffective, private expenditure. Congress flings billions of tax dollars to large farming corporations, oil barons and unsuccessful experimental energy projects while education, disaster relief and public transit systems are overlooked across the country.

Each year, Citizens Against Government Waste compiles a “Pig Book,” itemizing that year’s pork, or unnecessary expenditures. In order to be considered a piece of our government’s non-kosher budget, the item must satisfy at least two of the organization’s seven criteria: requested by only one chamber of Congress; not specifically authorized; not competitively awarded; not requested by the president; greatly exceeds the president’s budget request or the previous year’s funding; not the subject of congressional hearings; or serves only a local or special interest.

Lawmakers have a habit of adding earmarks to otherwise helpful bills, in order to fund private projects.

A congressman or woman’s well-intended vote on a bill for primary education might also award hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Lobster Institute of Maine or the Dairy Business Association or several million to fund grape and wine research. These projects usually fulfill politicians’ promises to constituents and organizations that got them elected in the first place.

For the 2008 fiscal year,

11,610 of these additions will pump $17.2 billion dollars into the private projects of senators across the country.

Although a few billion Benjamins might not be considered real money to the United States congress, it does contribute to our country’s $400 trillion dollar deficit.

Included in our fiscal irresponsibility are subsidies that go to inorganic farming to help supposedly struggling farming conglomerates. These subsidies are proposed as measures to protect consumers from high prices but are really put in place to protect these companies from international competition. This is all on top of tax cuts that further increase profit margins. Should our government help corporations that abuse illegal immigrants and destroy small farms?

Examples of such agricultural subsidies are to the corn ethanol industry, which received $7 billion in government aid for 2006.

While this giant contribution to alternative fuel may appear to be an unprecedented action against global warming on our government’s part, many environmentalists feel ethanol is an ineffective fuel source. The carbon emissions produced from the harvesting and manufacture of corn fuel may actually be more than the energy saved by its use. Europe has already caught onto this, abandoning ethanol production to more gainful alternatives.

Meanwhile, clean coal projects, which are an oxymoron by definition, cost us $30 million before we finally cut funding this year.

Our government spending has taken a definite turn towards consumerism and non-productivity. Politicians need to be accountable for their actions, significantly how they use our money. It seems that during most political careers, more is done to aid the big corporations and wealthy contributors who back each politician than the citizens who really need the help.

Unfortunately, American democracy is, as a wise man once put it, “like sausage. You don’t want to know what’s in it.”

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