Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Moderating pork

The Cato Institute just released a short report titled "Pork: A Microcosm of the Overspending Problem." The report is available from the Institute's home page here. The report begins, "The $286 billion highway bill that passed in July was bloated with 6,371 special projects inserted by members of Congress for their states and districts. Such projects are often of dubious value or for purposes that are the responsibility of local governments and the private sector. Pork is only one type of waste in the budget, but it undermines efforts to restrain federal spending in general." There's no debating the fact that federal spending is on the rise. It's worth noting, however, that "pork" is in the eye of the beholder. In other words, one man's pork is another's economic development project (see new I-49 funding for Louisiana...) Setting aside the definitional problem, the Cato Institute's report contains an interesting proposition: "Pork spending might be brought under control with greater budget transparency. The name of the politician requesting each project should be listed in legislation, and spending request letters sent by members to appropriators should be made available online." Why stop at the federal level? How about doing the same thing in Louisiana? And in addition to 1) the name of the politician requesting the money and 2) the written funding request from the requesters, how about also requiring a few additional common sense safeguards such as: a) documentation proving that the organization requesting the funding actually exists b) documentation listing all founding and governing members of the requesting organization c) documentation proving the organization has been in existence for more than one year d) accounting records for the organization's past spending (including bank statements) e) detailed proposal for use of requested funds f) after-action report required to be published and widely distributed within 1 year of receipt of the state funding to demonstrate how the monies were spent (including certified receipts, bank statements and other evidence of financial transactions) g) establishing significant penalties for misappropriation of said public funds No doubt some of the money the Louisiana legislature doles out each year goes to worthy organizations. But wouldn't it be nice to know for certain that all of it does?