"The pledge not to waste our tax dollars rings hollow," says Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, "given that in a matter of days [President Bush] will sign into law a budget-buster that provides money for Alaska skating rinks, Michigan swimming pools and Iowa indoor rain forests."
Moore is referring to the president's pronouncement in his State of the Union address that "we must spend tax dollars wisely" and the complete lack of opposition from the White House to the mile-high pile of pork in the recently passed fiscal 2004 Omnibus spending bill.
In addition to the tropical forest, the new Michigan pools and the Alaska skating rinks, the Omnibus bill gouges taxpayers to the tune of $725,000 for the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, $2 million for the Appalachian Fruit Laboratory, $1 million for the Alaska SeaLife Center, $300,000 for the National Wild Turkey Federation, $500,000 for the Montana Sheep Institute, and $2 million for a golf awareness program in St. Augustine.
The indoor rain forest gets a whopping $50 million. This faux paradise for parrots will be built in Coralville, Iowa, a town with a population of 17,246 according to the latest Census Bureau survey, or about 5,000 households. The $50 million, in other words, averages out to $10,000 per household, not bad for a place that doesn't even have an airport.
For taxpayers wanting to visit their money, Coralville boasts a low crime rate (there was one murder back in 2001) and a "Nightlife" section in the town's Convention & Visitors Bureau guide that lists 12 restaurants. None stays open past 9 p.m.
The "star attraction" in Coralville is fossil watching, according to the Visitors Bureau, thanks to the flood of 1993. "For the first time in the history of the dam, water overtopped the emergency spillway," the guide tells us. "The overflow lasted a month, washing away tons of soil, huge trees, and part of our new road. When the waters receded, the 375-million-year-old fossilized Devonian ocean floor was revealed."
On top of all that, with things still up in the air in Iraq and Afghanistan, George W. Bush says he wants to have a U.S. base on the moon, by 2015 or so, for "human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond." This interplanetary escapade comes with a price tag of $50 billion per year in spending that will supposedly be pulled from other federal programs over the next decade, plus an extra $200 million per year in new spending.
Add to that, on the more evangelical side of things, the President's proposal to have the federal government spend $1.5 billion to promote "healthy marriage." Between the lines, that means we'd better stop thinking it might be okay to have a wedding cake with two little plastic grooms sticking in the icing. But on the spending side, it means federal abstinence instructions for anyone in need of what the President is calling "character education"—plus some communication courses for the poor, so they quit fighting so much and getting divorced and driving up the deficit.
The bottom line? The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that the federal government will build up $2.4 trillion in red ink spending over the next decade, a number $1 trillion higher than the CBO's estimate in August.
"The big story is Republicans have become a big spending party," says Moore. "And I think the White House is really the ring leader of the spending spree."
With the federal budget costing more than $20,000 on average per year for every family in America and this year's deficit projected to hit a record $477 billion, Moore points to a philosophy in George W. Bush's State of the Union address that only promises to hike the level of unnecessary and wasteful spending.
"The State of Bush's Union has become in some ways a State of Dependency and a State of Entitlement," says Moore. "He has this unattractive tendency to believe that there's a government grant program for every problem that afflicts America. He wants to spend millions to promote holy matrimony. He wants to spend $200 million to fight obesity. Why can't we just tell fat people to stop overeating?"
The numbers tell the story. The average annual real increases in domestic discretionary spending were 2.0 percent under Jimmy Carter, minus 1.3 percent in the Reagan years, 4.0 percent with George H.W. Bush, 2.5 percent in the Clinton years, and 8.2 percent with George W. Bush.