You'd think that reporting on federal budget bills costing billions of dollars would be difficult. But it's easy, really: All you have to do is remember that budget items involving animals or unusual foods are funny.
ABC's Jonathan Karl has mastered the genre. Reporting on the ominous spending bill (World News, 2/24/09), he declared: "The bill is supposed to fund government operations, but it includes things like more than $1 million for so-called 'Mormon crickets' in Utah, $200,000 for tattoo removal in Los Angeles and $443,000 to control beavers in Mississippi." Hee hee! Bugs are funny, as are government efforts to control agricultural pests! And the bill also mentions "beavers"–if you're in junior high, you'll probably find that particularly amusing.
You know what else is funny? Pig poop! Karl transforms it into comedy gold:
Democrat Tom Harkin put in $1.8 million for "swine odor and manure management" in Ames, Iowa. "20 million pigs in Iowa," he explained in a statement, "make odor problems a very real issue." Chuck Schumer secured $2.2 million for the Grape Genetics Center in Geneva, New York. He told us the program helps farmers produce "better hybrid grapes."
Any more comical animals or agricultural products mentioned in the bill, Karl? "Nearly $3 million for poultry and blueberry research in Georgia, courtesy of Republican Saxby Chambliss and Jack Kingston. $127,000 for 'blackbird management' in Kansas. Senator Pat Roberts says the birds cost farmers millions."
In summary: "With the exception of the period right after September 11, this bill includes the biggest increase in federal spending since 1978.* Thanks in part to the millions earmarked for blueberries, blackbirds and crickets. And it's your money."
Thanks for the informative report, Karl.
* This does not seem to be true. The bill increases the funding for a group of agencies by $31 billion. Military spending alone increased by $44 billion in 2002, $56 billion in 2003, $51 billion in 2004, $40 billion in 2005 and $55 billion in 2008.