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Culture Books


Beltway Books: Wasted on the way

How Washington expands its power with your money

If you're like most citizens, you were probably skeptical when Republican and Democratic politicians recently announced that they had solved the budget problem. That such skepticism was warranted is evident from the 1997 Congressional Pig Book Summary.

Produced by Citizens Against Government Waste, this thin volume details how Congress continues to misuse the taxpayers' money. The book explains: "The second session of the 104th Congress was responsible for more than $14.5 billion in pork, which was 16 percent higher than the first session." The watchdog group's lengthy list of waste shows just how cavalier politicians are with their constituents' money.

If there is one function that obviously belongs to government, it is preventing and punishing crime. But as Tanya Metaksa, the chief lobbyist of the National Rifle Association points out in her new book, Safe, Not Sorry, the government does a poor job of it. There are no arrests in more than half of crimes, and half of all convicted rapists spend less than a year in jail. Thus, she offers a program for ensuring one's own safety including, not surprisingly, gun ownership.

In The New War Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry sees a different danger, organized crime. While criminal enterprises cause enormous harm, Mr. Kerry overplays the problem when he terms it a threat to "our national security." His solution is-surprise, surprise!-a broad increase in federal power. It seems no one in Washington ever conceives of doing anything other than expanding government.