Eminentoes

Chuck Grassley, King of Pork

His swinish war on American pocketbooks continues.

By 6.10.08

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Each year, the Iowa Pork Producers Association chooses a young woman from the state to hold the title of Iowa's Pork Queen. There's also a Pork Princess and a Pork Youth Ambassador -- but no Pork King.

Why not? Perhaps because there's no need. Iowa already has its own King of Pork in Senator Chuck Grassley.

This year, the government-watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste named Grassley the fourth biggest GOP earmarker. The senator has proven himself a champion spender of other people's money.

He's pushed for higher taxes, wasted millions on dubious projects, and thrown his support behind big-government health care reforms. Grassley is a consummate creature of Washington, always finding creative ways to spend more taxpayer dollars.

He's even got awards to prove it. In addition to his recent final-four finish in the organization's earmarking totals, CAGW has named him "Porker of the month." Due in large part to Grassley's spending savvy, the group's report put Iowa, 30th in terms of population, 16th in overall earmark spending. The group noted that the federal government spends more than $61 on pork projects for every one of the state's citizens.

For his fiscal shenanigans, Grassley has earned not censure but rather a coveted spot as the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, where he can help oversee the nation's businesses and financial institutions.

SO CONGRATS, Sen. Grassley, on your tremendously successful efforts to waste millions in taxpayer dollars.

How many millions? Well, in 2008 alone, the Iowa legislator secured just over $321 million in earmarked funds. For that much, you could buy a fleet of Ferraris -- more than 1,600 of them, in fact, and that's if you couldn't get the dealer to cut you a deal.

It's enough, in fact, to significantly outdo Barack Obama, the current contender for the Democratic presidential nomination (and, for that matter, Hillary too). In fact Obama of late has sworn off earmarks and is now looking for ways to reform the system. Yet Grassley is the one who is putatively conservative.

What did the Iowa Senator actually get for all those millions? This year, he blocked off a half a million for the Midwest poultry consortium, another $400,000 for "ag-based industrial lubricants," and $168,000 for "dairy education."

In previous years, he's helped his state rake in $6 million for a "swine research facility," securing one kind of pork to pay for another.

Many of these earmarks are for small sums in the larger scheme of things, but they add up. And Grassley got his big gift a few years back in 2003 when he famously requested $50 million for an indoor rainforest -- the development of which had stalled after failing to find the private backing necessary to complete the overgrown school science project.

YES, IT'S CLEAR that Grassley loves his pork enough to deserve the coveted Pork King crown. But blowing millions on goofy boondoggles isn't the only place he's gone wrong.

Over the years Grassley has been a fervent advocate of increasing taxes on Americans living abroad. He's teamed up with Democrats to advocate a big-government health care plan that would add a layer of bureaucracy to the nation's health insurance system.

Grassley has consistently pushed for greater ethanol mandates, the kind that drive up gas prices, despite plenty of evidence that corn-based ethanol is both more expensive and more harmful to the environment than many traditional fuels. And he's pushed for steep tax hikes on Wall Street, never mind the debilitating effect they'd likely have on the nation's financial system.

Yet Grassley remains a leading Republican with the power and status of an established Senator. That's too bad, because what he offers isn't conservatism, or principled leadership of any kind. It is instead the worst kind of self-interested deal making, based solely on convenience, with utterly no consideration of the public good.

Economist Thomas Sowell once said, "the assumption that spending more of the taxpayer's money will make things better has survived all kinds of evidence that it has made things worse."

And in every tax hike, ethanol mandate, and wasteful earmark Grassley pushes, that assumption survives today. If conservatives are serious about reestablishing their fiscally responsible brand, they'll need to do better than big-spending oinkers like this senior senator from the Hawkeye State.

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About the Author

Matt Kibbe is president of the grassroots organization FreedomWorks and author, with Dick Armey, of Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto.