Los Angeles (July 29, 2008) - In fiscal 2008, taxpayers are shelling out over $17 billion for more than 11,000 Congressional earmarks. One such project is a $1.6 million earmark in this year's defense spending bill for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), a program that looks for evidence of life elsewhere in the universe. SETI scientists haven't detected any evidence of extra-terrestrial life since the program's inception in the 1960s, leading Reason.tv editor Nick Gillespie to wonder, "Are aliens really a threat to our national security? Why is SETI receiving money that is supposed to be used for national defense?"
Earmarks, not aliens, are the real threat to Americans. Beyond encouraging Congressional overspending, earmarks create "an unfair and unbalanced representative government," says Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn. "If you've got money and you can influence things in Washington, you get benefits. If you don't have money and you can't influence, you're not necessarily benefiting."
This alien pork project is just one example of how elected officials use earmarks to funnel your federal tax dollars back to powerful interests in their districts. Since 1991, Americans have paid over $271 billion for pork projects, according to Citizens Against Government Waste.
"Look at the omnibus package in the Senate right now," says Gillespie. "They've rolled 35 bills into one, with over $10 billion in spending stuffed into it. With the federal government facing a record $490 billion budget deficit in 2009, maybe Congress should consider how it will balance the federal budget before it goes running up more credit card bills that taxpayers get stuck with."
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Chris Mitchell, Director of Communications, Reason Foundation, (310) 367-6109