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— The Citizens Against Government Waste’s annual Congressional Pig Book is always an interesting read. It focuses on pork projects federal officials receive in spending bills in exchange for votes. For those who think bipartisanship is dead, think again. Congress feeds at the same trough when it suits them. You just hear them squeal when they disagree — or don’t get what they want.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which was approved in February 2018, included legislation that did away with the spending caps set in the 2011 Budget Control Act and increased spending by $143 billion, or 13.4 percent, in fiscal year 2018 compared to FY 2017.

“The 2018 Congressional Pig Book exposes 232 earmarks in FY 2018, an increase of 42.3 percent from the 163 in FY 2017. The cost of earmarks in FY 2018 is $14.7 billion, an increase of 116.2 percent from the $6.8 billion in FY 2017, or nearly nine times greater than the increase in discretionary spending,” CAGW said on its website. “The only other time the cost has at least doubled was FYs 1992-1993. Since FY 1991, CAGW has identified 110,861 earmarks costing $344.5 billion.”

These billions are our tax dollars. Read Pig Book highlights here: https://www.cagw.org/reporting/pig-book.

CAGW released a 2019 Pork-Barrel Madness bracket to coincide with the NCAA tournament — and bring attention to wasteful spending. The bracket features 32 of what CAGW considers “the worst pork-barrel earmarks of all time.”

Here are some of my favorites from the 32 highlights. The full Pork Barrel Madness bracket is on the organization’s website.

• Bridge to Nowhere: The $223 million Gravina Island Bridge would have connected the Alaska mainland to an island of only 50 people. And a couple other projects in Alaska: Bering Sea Crab, $1 million for Bering Sea Crab conservation projects, and $750,000 for grasshopper research.

• Sparta Teapot Museum: $500,000 for construction of a Teapot Museum in Sparta, North Carolina.

• Pleasure Beach water taxi: $1.9 million for the Pleasure Beach water taxi service to a beach that patrons could already reach by foot.

• Indoor Rain Forest: $50 million for an indoor rainforest project in Coralville, Iowa.

• Water free Urinal: $1 million to the Waterfree Urinal Conservation Initiative for the development of a waterless urinal.

• Screwworm research: $34 million to study the screwworm, even though the wily pest has already been eradicated from the United States.

• Combating Goth culture: $273,000 for the Blue Springs Youth Outreach Unit for educational training in combating Goth culture.

So, I am reading through this list and thinking: shouldn’t our leaders in Washington get rid of these types of earmarks? Recent discussions have centered on at least $7 billion in proposed cuts to education programs, including eliminating all $18 million in federal funding for the Special Olympics.

Shouldn’t some of these pork projects go — if not first, at least at the same time as education funding?

(Shea Wilson is the former managing editor of the El Dorado News-Times. Email her at melsheawilson@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter.com @sheawilson7.)

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