October 25, 2005

Charles Bakst on the Subject of Pork

Carroll Andrew Morse

Charles Bakst misses an important part of the anti-pork argument in today’s Projo.

One could argue that tax cuts stimulate the economy, and better that you keep your money than the government waste it. My point is: Tax cuts, like pork-barrel politics, are an important issue, or could be, if the candidates want to have a meaningful dialogue about these things and if voters will pay attention.
The argument against pork is not just that “you get to keep your money”, it is that money spent by local government tends to be more rationally and efficiently spent than money spent by a remote Federal government. When the Feds control spending, you end up with things like $11,000,000 allocated for bike paths in Coventry, while nothing is allocated for the repairing the Tiogue Dam in Coventry, which would cost “just” $600,000 to fix. Here’s another example, from Amanda Milkovits in the Projo…
The Slack Reservoir in Smithfield and Johnston, where the 19th-century earthen dam was used to help control the river for the mills has been deteriorating. About a million gallons of water leak from the dam each day.

If the dam breaks, the water would cascade through the village of Greenville, across Route 44, through more than 50 homes and businesses, said Mark Barnes, president of the Slack Reservoir Association.

"It would be quite the mess," Barnes said.

Faced with $400,000 in repairs, the association members have appealed at meetings in Johnston and Smithfield, and among their neighbors to raise money.

So far, they've raised half the money, from Johnston, their members, and the state, thanks to the aid of Sen. John J. Tassoni Jr., D-Smithfield, Barnes said.

They drew up their own emergency action plan to notify and evacuate people downstream, and gave the plan to the local emergency management director. They've had guidance from the DEM, which has trained the association members how to monitor the dam, Barnes said. They check it every day, he said.

Maybe a small fraction of the $5,000,000 being spent on the greenway from Johnston to Providence would be better spent on dam repair.

Bakst speculates that...

Myself, I'm not the largest believer in pork. But if there's any to be had, have some here, no? I imagine most voters see it that way...
I think it's a huge leap to assume the most people would have warm and fuzzy feelings about pork if they knew exactly what their money was being spent on. Do the residents of Coventry or the members of the Slack Reservoir Association really want to be highly taxed so they can pay for bikpeaths, bridges to nowhere in Alaska, or rainforests in Iowa, while their basic infrastructure needs are ignored?

Let people keep their money locally, so they can have more control over spending it. Give the citizens of this country federal tax relief, so people like the members of the Slack Reservoir Association can have the resources they need to repair their dam.