Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » May 2005 » Speaking of Pork Futures...

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05/12/2005: Speaking of Pork Futures...

This NY Times editorial say a lot on the “Runaway Pork Budget” spending endemic to Congress for the past four years.

The Roads Are Paved With Pork:

"An immense pork-laden highway spending bill is trundling through Congress like some surreal demonstration vehicle for the nation's skewed values. The Senate is busy angling to balloon the plan beyond the $284 billion maximum approved by the House, prompting the Bush administration to threaten a veto and gruffly lecture lawmakers against resorting to "accounting gimmicks" that promise "to spend money that doesn't exist." But lawmakers, who have heard those veto threats before, are greedily ignoring lessons in fiscal prudence from a White House that rewrote the book on runaway tax cuts and deficit spending.

At a moment when the price of the nation's dependence on foreign oil has never been starker, the six-year bill contains an 80-20 spending formula that grossly favors the private automobile over public transit. It continues with a record 3,800 pet projects inserted by House members in their role as self-appointed masters of the transportation universe. Hundreds more are ready for ladling out in the Senate. And despite the deteriorating state of the nation's roads, Congress is not even spending its highway pork on highways. The bill is stuffed with graffiti-elimination plans, snowmobile trails, tourist sidewalks and trolleys, parking garages, and even a national Packard museum, presumably as a memorial to when gas guzzling began in earnest.

Many pork projects may have local value. But few would be ranked as priorities by state highway and transit professionals, who are the qualified experts on what's truly needed.

Lawmakers are hardly embarrassed by their trophy projects. The most successful earn affectionate nicknames like "Mr. Concrete" - that's Representative Don Young, the Alaska Republican, who as chairman of the Transportation Committee earmarked 39 projects worth $722 million for his state. Mr. Young is already famous for his "bridges to nowhere." One $200 million project would create a span almost the size of the Golden Gate Bridge for 50 residents of Gravina Island. That's a boondoggle of $4 million per capita. A project for another sparsely populated tract has a price tag of $2.3 billion. Meanwhile, about one in four existing bridges are badly in need of repair across the nation.

President Bush's veto threat is aimed at keeping the bill at $284 billion, but that's a pitiful target when it lets bridges to nowhere go forward at the expense of the common good."

Contrast this editorial with this one by John Fund for the Wall Street Journal about his ideas to "break the logjam on Social Security reform.": Personal Lock Boxes.

The operative idea being to control Congressional spending:

”....One way to do that would be to create a true "lockbox" that allows people to put their share of the surplus into their own personal account to help fund their retirement. But the account would be limited to no-risk, but marketable, Treasury bills. Every taxpayer who voluntarily chose to create a T-Bill personal account would, in effect, own the key to his own lockbox, containing a significant chunk of their future benefits. The surpluses would become real assets owned by citizens rather than government IOUs...."

Great idea - except in the very next paragraph, he basically recognizes the "unreality" of that budgetary restraint non-existent in Congress:

".…Everyone knows that if nothing is done Congress--regardless of which party controls it--will spend every penny of the Social Security surpluses that will flow into the Treasury until 2017, after which the cost of benefits going out will begin exceeding the revenue coming in. Those surpluses will not go into a true "trust fund" with real assets, but instead into those IOUs, which David Walker, head of the Governmental Accountability Office, says "give a very false sense of security about where we are and how much time we have" until insolvency….”

But given Congress’s continued penchant for increasing the deficit and spending money it can’t afford, and our No-Veto President “I never met a spending bill I haven’t liked- No matter how Pork laden it is” Bush....this is perhaps a great theory without any practice or practical back up to support it. As long as Congress refuses to rein itself in on endless Pork Projects at the expense of us all, this is an idea going nowhere.

Karen on 05.12.05 @ 03:01 AM CST

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