July 30

Bringing home the bacon

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From Today’s New York Times. I think pork barreling is the most disgusting part of our political system. And both sides do it shamelessly. This article shows only the tip of the pork barrel iceberg as it describes how Senators and Representatives from both sides of the aisle not only bring home the bacon but crow about it publicly.
The article starts out describing the 1$ billion dollars in bacon that Representative Don Young, Republican and Alaska’s only congressman, is bringing home to the folks in Alaska as their “meager” cut in the newly enacted Transportation Bill, the most expensive public works bill in US history.
What is Alaska going to do with its newfound wealth?

About one-fourth of that money will be spent to build one of the biggest bridges in the United States, a mile-long, 200-foot-high span that will connect Ketchikan, a town with fewer than 8,000 people, to an island that has 50 residents and a small airport.
Another $230 million will be spent on a bridge across an inlet in Anchorage, and it will be named Don Young’s Way.
And as an added sweetener for Mr. Young, a Republican who is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the bill includes almost $3 million to produce a documentary film “about infrastructure that demonstrates advancements in Alaska, the last frontier.”

So, a few thousand people benefit, we all get stuck with the bill, and Dandy Don gets a bridge named after him as gratitude for transferring the wealth from the other 49 states to his.
But, alas, Dandy Don is not alone in reaching out to all our wallets for his constituency.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, interrupted a news conference he was having on President Bush’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge John G. Roberts, to brag to reporters listening on a speakerphone in Massachusetts about the $330 million in special highway projects in his home state.

In Kennedy’s defense, given the population density and wealth in Massachusetts, at least as much money left there headed to pork barrel projects in other states. I mean which state do you think needs the money the most? Alaska, a huge state with a total population far less than the city of Boston, that not only—thanks to huge oil revenue—does not have a state income tax, but actually gives each and every state resident a check for his (her) share of the huge surplus at the end of the year? Or Taxachussets, whose residents have to pay through the nose for all kinds of taxes for every conceivable product and service, and who, unlike Alaska, don’t get a big check at year’s end, but have to pony up even more.
As an aside, while on the subject of the tax situation in Massachusetts, I can tell you that while it is abysmal, the people there do okay with it. I spent some time in Cambridge a few years ago and actually owned property there. I discovered that there is a huge and vibrant black market thriving in all of Massachusetts. Most small businesses don’t take credit cards, and anyone who comes to work on your house, i.e., plumbers, electricians, painters, etc., wants to be paid in cash. Even the laundry we used took only cash. When you see this, you know that much of this money goes unreported, which is the way people everywhere deal with oppressive taxation.
As to national politics, I hate the whole idea of a bi-partisan piece of legislation wending its way through the sausage factory getting molded into a form palatable to most everyone when the molding process is in the following form: I’ll sign on to it if I can get a few hundred million for my state so I can go home a hero.
Where are all our statesmen?
I’m with Plato. One should vote not according to party affiliation, but for the candidate with the highest intellect and the greatest character. Doing so will prove to be the correct choice much more often than not. Sadly, the opposite happens all too often here.


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