The Boston Globe
August 4, 2005
The Republican pork barrel
By Jeff Jacoby
AT $286.4 BILLION, the highway bill just passed by Congress is the most
expensive public works legislation in US history. In addition to funding the
interstate highway system and other federal transportation programs, it sets
a new record for pork-barrel spending, earmarking $24 billion for a
staggering 6,376 pet projects, spread among virtually every congressional
district in the land. The enormous bill -- 1,752 pages long -- wasn't made
public until just before it was brought to a vote, and so, as The New York
Times noted, ''it is safe to bet that none of the lawmakers, not even the
main authors, had read the entire package."
That didn't stop them from voting for it. It passed 412 to 8 in the House,
91 to 4 in the Senate.
Huge as the bill was, it wasn't quite huge enough for Representative Don
Young of Alaska, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee. ''It's not as big as what he'd like," a committee spokesman said,
''but is still a very good bill and will play a major role in addressing
transportation and highway needs."
One wonders what more Young could have wanted. The bill funnels upward of
$941 million to 119 earmarked projects in Alaska, including $223 million for
a mile-long bridge linking an island with 50 residents to the town of
Ketchikan on the mainland. Another $231 million is earmarked for a new
bridge in Anchorage, to be named -- this is specified in the legislation --
Don Young's Way. There is $3 million for a film ''about infrastructure that
demonstrates advancements in Alaska, the last frontier." The bill even doffs
its cap to Young's wife, Lu: The House formally called it ''The
Transportation Equity Act -- a Legacy for Users," or TEA-LU.
Christmas didn't come early just for Alaska. Meander through the bill's
endless line items and you find a remarkable variety of ''highway" projects,
many of which have nothing to do with highways: Horse riding facilities in
Virginia ($600,000). A snowmobile trail in Vermont ($5.9 million). Parking
for New York's Harlem Hospital ($8 million). A bicycle and pedestrian trail
in Tennessee ($532,000). A daycare center and park-and-ride facility in
Illinois ($1.25 million). Dust control mitigation for rural Arkansas ($3
million). The National Packard Museum in Ohio ($2.75 million). A historical
trolley project in Washington ($200,000). And on and on and on.
If Carl Sandburg had lived to see this massive avalanche of bacon greasing
its way down Capitol Hill, he would have named Congress, not Chicago, the
hog butcher for the world. Or perhaps he would simply have seconded P.J.
O'Rourke's timeless observation in ''Parliament of Whores": ''Giving money
and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage
Arizona Senator John McCain, who voted no, called the bill a ''monstrosity"
and wondered whether it will ever be possible to restore fiscal sanity to
Congress. If ''the combination of war, record deficits, and the largest
public debt in the country's history" can't break lawmakers' addiction to
spending, he asked, what can? ''It would seem that this Congress can weather
any storm thrown at it, as long as we have our pork life-saver to cling to."
McCain is a Republican, and it might surprise younger readers to learn that
spending discipline was once a basic Republican principle. Hard to believe
in this era of bloated Republican budgets and the biggest-spending
presidential administration in 40 years -- but true. Once upon a time
Republicans actually described themselves with pride as fiscal
conservatives. That was one of the reasons they opposed the promiscuous use
of pork-barrel earmarks, which are typically used to bypass legislative
standards, reward political favorites, and assert political control over
state and local affairs.
For example, Ronald Reagan vetoed the 1987 highway bill because it included
121 earmarks and was $10 billion over the line he had drawn in the sand. ''I
haven't seen this much lard since I handed out blue ribbons at the Iowa
State Fair," he said. President Bush is a great admirer of Reagan's record
in foreign affairs. Too bad he shows so little interest in following the
Gipper's fiscal lead as well.
When Bush ran for president in 2000, he described his Democratic opponent,
Vice President Al Gore, as a reckless high-roller who would unbalance the
budget. ''If the vice president gets elected," Bush said, ''the era of big
government being over is over."
Five years later, what is over is the GOP reputation for fiscal sobriety.
Republicans today are simply the other big-government party -- just as
capable of squandering public funds, and just as eager to fill barrels with
pork, as their fellow-spendthrifts across the aisle.
286 Billion is like 15 days of Federal Income Tax. Looks like the Democrats got some goodies as well plus everyone voted for it so why is it "Republican" ? Oh wait now I see, it is from a Boston Paper, go figure.
Isn't there a hole in the ground in Boston that is the biggest pork barrel of all time? A subway to nowhere that is a thousand times over it's budget and doesn't a couple of guys named Kerry and Kennedy come from that area? What happened, they did not get another 20 billion to finish their first hole?
We live in Great Times boys! This maybe the golden years ... live it up! Chinese goods, food and the Mexican Gardner who mows your lawn is cheap... Do the sell out!
Because tomorrow the Goberment may take your house and give it to a strip house for the promise of greater taxes.
Thinking about it I should put my retirement in Chinese Company Stocks and Currency tomorrow.
Or do what the Chinese do and buy U.S. Debt. so I can have a future U.S. Senator or perhaps a future Cliton kiss my ass.
Both political parties shit smells the same and it has come down to who's bandini smells the least.
Get over it!!!
I don't understand why the article is called "the Republican pork barrel" it should be called "the political pork barrel" It would seem that a lot of dems voted for it as well.