September 28, 2005

Defeating the Logic of Pork

Carroll Andrew Morse

It would be a great disappointment if funds redirected from Rhode Island pork went to nothing more than paying for Louisiana pork. Unfortunately, this may happen (if Congress bothers to make any spending cuts at all). As Dale MacFeatters writes in today's Projo, Louisiana’s Congressional delegation, enabled by a willing Congress, seems to be using Katrina as an excuse for a shameless money grab…

[I]t calls for $40 billion in Army Corps of Engineers water-and-flood-control projects within Louisiana, including many that seem unrelated to hurricane protection....The Washington Post reports that the Corps provisions were ‘based on recommendations from a 'working group' dominated by lobbyists for ports, shipping firms, energy companies, and other corporate interests.’

Maybe grabbing as much money as they can when, even if it means exploiting tragedy, is simple Congressional reflex. But there may be something else at work here. Maybe Congress realizes that the quickest way to kill the Porkbusters Project is to attach all kinds of pork to Katrina relief and convince citizens that everyone is as greedy and shortsighted as the current Congress and that the only way to defend yourself is to do it to them before they do it to you.

I’m not that cynical yet. I still think that some of the money earmarked for civic luxuries in Rhode Island should be redirected to Katrina relief. But since federal money sent directly to New Orleans is as likely to be misspent it would have been before Katrina stuck, I am adding a condition to my call that $49,000,000 in Rhode Island highway bill earmarks be redirected to Katrina relief. Instead of focusing redirected funding on New Orleans, redirected highway pork should be focused on helping Katrina victims reestablish themselves wherever they are, whether or not they choose to return to New Orleans.

If the Porkbusters want to keep their momentum going, they need to get someone in Congress to sponsor a bill that directs aid towards individual Katrina victims and the communities that are helping them, not towards the corrupt governments and their cronies that helped create the disaster in the first place (something modeled on Senate Bill 1681, but with a wider scope) and make that new bill the focus of redirected funding.

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While it would be nice to aid individuals, the congress critters can't build up the federal government by doing that. They can't extend their prestige and pork abilities by just giving to actual people. It's a matter of wanting to seem like they're doing something without actually doing anything.

And yes, I'm that cynical. Then again, having lived in Woon....

Posted by: Paul at September 29, 2005 5:58 AM

All in all, this latest example highlights the dangers inherent in having a too-massive redistributionist government. The value of dollars donated or redirected decreases exponentially from the moment it leaves the taxpayers wallet until it is finally spent. But I don't mean to be too cynical, either ;) It is a good cause, including Andrew's ammendment, and should continue to be pursued.

Posted by: Marc at September 29, 2005 8:57 AM

I have to admit I like the idea of financial aid to individuals, as I am living and working in Gulfport, MS.

Posted by: Brad at September 29, 2005 11:43 AM