Political Pork Still Sputters And Sizzles

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We have met the enemy and he is us.

— Pogo

Earmarks. Terrible stuff. Unless you happen to really, really need the bridge, or the paved road, or the thinned forest.

But various politicians want to sound fiscally responsible, so we’re heading into another Dancing With the Stars twirl of hypocrisy — where the contestants all look like they’re on crack.

You’ll find a couple of fascinating little illustrations of the reason politicians remain addicted to pork rinds that have contributed to the debt that will haunt our grandchildren.

Earmarks represent perhaps the most rancid version of political pork — projects traded for votes without the bother of hearings or defensible cost-benefit analysis.

No one can precisely agree on what constitutes an earmark — but Citizens Against Government Waste tallied up at least 9,000 in this year’s budget.

Now, granted: all the pork combined is just the pimple on the pig’s butt. The federal budget this year totals about $3.1 trillion. That includes $1.5 trillion for Medicare and Social Security, $650 billion for defense, $224 billion for Medicaid, $260 billion for interest payments and $360 billion for other entitlements like unemployment. That leaves about $600 billion for everything else.

Stung by public alarm about uncontrolled government spending, Democrats have proposed banning earmarks that benefit for-profit private companies. Such earmarks have played a large role in recent corruption scandals, but would affect only 5 percent to 10 percent of existing earmarks.

Republicans have countered with a call for the elimination of all earmarks, an idea they never seriously considered when they controlled Congress.

Arizona Sen. John McCain has battled the practice for years, without much to show for it. Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake refuses to request earmarks, a principled stand that has cost his constituents millions in federal funds.

And that could explain why everyone’s against earmarks — in someone else’s district.

On the front page today, we report on Gila County’s earmark wish list — all good projects. They include a bridge over Tonto Creek, paving stretches of Control Road, moving Houston Mesa Road up out of the East Verde, pavement for the rutted dirt road into Young and millions to thin the forest to protect Rim communities. The supervisors noted that they’ll ask U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl and 1st District Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick to find a way to slip that priority list into the budget — since Sen. John McCain won’t use earmarks.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped J.D. Hayworth from accusing McCain of hypocrisy for supporting bills that include pet projects to buy votes. This would be more impressive if Hayworth himself hadn’t been such an enthusiastic earmarker when he served as a Phoenix Congressman.

You might also look through the story about former Payson mayor Bob Edwards’ speech, which started off by expressing dismay at government spending — but concluded with a discussion of the benefits of water pipelines and assorted government projects.

Dan Adams rose to observe that we always express disgust at government spending — but end up lining up with our wish lists — so we pretty much deserve what we get.

Yep. Earmarks. Terrible stuff. Corrupting. Wasteful.

Still, gosh. Sure wish they’d thin the forest, build that bridge, pave the Control Road — instead of wasting all that money on other people’s projects.

Comments

None 4 years ago

Point of correction if we may? Seems the author is unaware that when JD Hayworth was a member of Congress Payson was included in his district before it became CD-1 and elected the king of earmarks, Rick Renzi.

If memory serves, some of Hayworth's earmarks were to the benefit of Gila County as were Renzi's.

Tell the whole story.

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