Is There Pork In The Stimulus Bill

President Barack Obama said earlier this month that he would not allow the economic stimulus bill to be filled with pork barrel projects.  Is that what Congress is going to do?

Well, if you look through all 600 pages of the bill, which you can download from Congress at http://www.rules.house.gov/111/LegText/111_hr1_text.pdf - you might see a few things that will make you wonder.

Or you can go back to one of my blogs from a few days ago and read through some of the projects:

Explorehttp://wsbradio.com/blogs/jamie_dupree/2009/01/just-some-of-the-economic-stim.html

But is there really out and out pork?  That depends on your definition.

I'm sure if we tied up some Appropriations Committee staffers and administered the Truth Serum, they might fess up and admit that some lawmaker asked for something in this bill.

So let's find some stuff that's really specific.  Like $500 million for "Buildlings and Facilties" at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, just inside the Beltway.

There is $462 million for renovation work at the Centers for Disease Control, which is located in Atlanta.

I might have missed something as my eyes began to fuzz over in those 647 pages, but I didn't find anything else that was "specific" to a certain location, other than money that would go to certain things in Washington, D.C., like repair money for the Smithsonian Museums.

For the sake of argument, let's just assume that this bill is approved as it is right now.  Then we are going to find some pork, but it will be Executive Branch Pork and not Congressional Pork.

For example, the bill has $400 million for the construction and costs to establish a new "National Computer Center" for the Social Security Administration.

You know lots of lawmakers will be looking for ways to bring that one back to their district, because that just says "JOBS" all over it.

At some point, the SSA will have to decide where that new computer center gets built.

How about the $2 billion in "Construction" for the Army Corps of Engineers?  When they start spending that for a variety of water projects, will it be seen as pork at that point?

Most of those decisions will be from the Army Corps, but what if lawmakers in coming months decide to insert language in budget bills that instructs the Corps to use money from the Economic Stimulus bill to build a certain project in a certain city or county?

So it may not be "pork" right now, but it might be just down the road.

What about money to build housing at military facilities around the country?  The stimulus bill has almost $1.5 billion to build new housing and child care development centers for the military.

Right now, that's just a pot of money.  But in a few months, maybe the Pentagon will say, here you go Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, or Fort Benning in Georgia, here's money to upgrade your housing stock, or to build a new child care facility.

Is it pork then?

How about $550 million for Indian Health Care facilities?  No locations are identified in this bill, but you have to figure the money will go to Indian reservations around the country.

Sooner or later, some specific ones will have to be identified.  Maybe Oklahoma?  Or Montana?

Does that make this money into pork at that point?

I do think Congressional pork is important to watch.  But I am getting more and more convinced that journalists and watchdog groups need to do a better job watching how Executive departments hand out billions in grants and more each year.

They don't make those decisions on who gets the money in a vacuum obviously.

So there you go.  Lots of money, but really not a lot of pork.

At least not right now....