WASHINGTON. — Washington -- If George Bush has his way with the Congress, the nation's mink will get no squawfish and $46,000 will be saved. Hallelujah! Our free-spending president has been born again.
As the Heritage Foundation recently has noted, federal domestic spending under the Bush administration has soared out of sight. The president has stemmed no tides. The money rolls out. The debt goes up. Mr. Bush and the Congress make up a happy twosome.
But the president has good intentions. Besides, he's running for re-election. So last month he proposed some $4 billion in ''rescissions.'' Unless the Congress stops him, he will not spend certain funds it has told him to spend. In effect he is wielding a line-item veto. Bravo!
For example, the Congress has appropriated $46,000 to study ** the use of squawfish in mink diets. If you think I am making this up, write your congressman and ask for House Document
102-227. The president regards such research as inappropriate.
''The taxpayer,'' says Our Leader, ''should not be asked to subsidize the production of mink which are purchased by wealthy individuals. Moreover, the squawfish is listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.''
Consider this: Mr. Bush would rescind $120,000 for research into the handling of animal manure. The study would resolve conflicts ''between producers and the general public.'' It is something to think about.
Most of the president's proposed rescissions involve items the government never has requested. These are the little pieces of pork that members of Congress provide for specially influential constituents. A wink, a nudge and a nod -- and the item gets into the bill.
Here is an item of $134,000 to study ''the concepts of machine components necessary to construct a green tomato harvester.'' The president says the growers of green tomatoes should pay for the machine themselves. Right!
Mr. Bush proposes not to spend $100,000 on blackbird control in North Dakota, $387,000 on cool-season legumes in Idaho and Washington and $85,000 on disease management of hazelnuts and filberts in Oregon. The Department of Agriculture never has reviewed any of them.
One item on the president's hit list is quite literally pork. He would rescind $140,000 to study the diseases of swine in Minnesota. He would take back $150,000 earmarked for cow/calf management in 11 counties in Iowa. He wants to cancel a $100,000 study of prickly pears in Texas and a $50,000 study of grape juice in Arkansas. Are we to believe that none of these outlays could be put off to another day?
Not all of the latest rescissions are in agriculture. Pressure groups in Iowa talked some members of Congress into $2 million for economic development in downtown Davenport. In the same fashion, town fathers in Biscayne, Fla., got $65,000 for a local park. North Miami Beach, not to be left out, talked somebody into $505,000 for a performing arts center. Where's the money coming from? Treasury bonds?
The president wants to rescind $3 million to reduce chloride in the Red River Basin of Texas and Oklahoma. The money would be spent on a local water supply. Mr. Bush says local beneficiaries, easily identified, should pay 100 percent of the costs. He's right.
One more question: Why should the U.S. government, meaning all of us, borrow $700,000 in order to refurbish the Cresson Street trestle in Manayunk, Pa.? Manayunk is an old section of Philadelphia, northwest of the center city on the Schuylkill River.
How did Manayunk's ailing trestle get to be the responsibility of the Congress? The Department of Housing and Urban Development already pours millions of borrowed dollars into local programs that at least are screened and carefully reviewed. This piece of Pennsylvania pork just popped out of nowhere into HUD's bill.
Manayunk is in Bill Gray's old 2nd District, now represented by Lucien Blackwell. During his campaign for the vacated seat, Blackwell promised to bring home to his constituents all the pork he could carry. Maybe the Cresson Street Democratic Club, if there is one, will put his picture on the wall. That's how one gets re-elected.
Filberts, hazelnuts, green tomato pickers! Should mink be fed with squawfish? The national debt approaches $4 trillion. This year's pending deficit is $400 billion. And who the hell cares? Not
the U.S. Congress, that's for sure.
James J. Kilpatrick is a syndicated columnist.