Congress packs the bill with plenty of pork
By Eric Ruder | April 18, 2003 | Page 2
LAST WEEKEND, Congress passed a $79 billion package to fund Bush's invasion of Iraq--and decided to help itself in the process. Tucked inside the massive spending bill were provisions to fund pet projects of individual senators and corporate welfare for well-connected executives.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), for example, managed to slip in a provision to renovate an agricultural research center in his home state--at a cost of $110 million.
But airline executives were the big winners, raking in a $3.5 billion bailout. Laid-off airline workers will get 26 extra weeks of unemployment insurance, but this amounts to less than 20 percent of the total package.
The lion's share of the money will be cash grants--no strings attached--to the biggest airlines. And this bailout comes on top of $15 billion that the airlines received just after the September 11 attacks.
The legislation exposes Washington's real priorities. Of the $72.5 billion directly related to the war, $2.5 billion--a total of 3.4 percent--will go toward reconstruction. And even though desperate hunger stalks Iraq's cities, a mere $369 million--or 0.5 percent--will go for food aid.
The rest of the money will pay for new munitions, troop deployments, the call-up of reserves--and buying the support of countries in the so-called "coalition of the willing."
Bush also asked Congress to give him total authority over how the administration uses the money--a request that Congress refused to grant. "Not since Richard Nixon's administration has a White House been more aggressive in asserting executive control over of the power of the purse," wrote the Wall Street Journal.