Hooray for pork!
Ah, pork: federal funding for specific things in specific districts, copy-and-pasted into the middle of a giant bill about something else. Much like many Jews (and possibly many Muslims–I don’t know enough of ’em personally to tell), politicians declare publicly they’d never touch the stuff but behind closed doors, their appetite for it is positively ravenous.
Is pork wasteful? Sure, but not even half as wasteful as a government shutdown.
As you’ll recall, this government shutdown was engineered by the Republicans in order to bully the Democrats into ending Obamacare…well, that was the original demand. Then it was to delay it for a year…then it was to means-test Medicare…then it was to let coal-fired power plants pollute more…plus they kept on trying to introduce bills to open up the super-attention-getting parts of the government, while keeping the rest of it shut down…basically, the Republicans shut down the government in order to bully the Democrats into shutting down the government, slowly, piece by piece by piece. The Democrats were like, “Just open it all back up. We don’t negotiate with terrorists.” What they wanted was a “clean CR”: a “continuing resolution” to fund the government at current levels, no changes. What they got was a slightly dirty CR.
A $174,000 death benefit for the widow of former senator Frank Lautenberg
$20 million for LIHEAP (Low Income Heating Assistance Program)
$3.1 million the for Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board
$450 million for rebuilding projects in flood-struck areas of Colorado
Up to $636 million for federal agencies that fight wildfires, depending on how bad it gets next year
$2.2 billion for a dam project on the Ohio River
What are You the Taxpayer to make of all this? Well, if you’re a Republican, and you have the conservative Pavlovian response of furious denunciation whenever the phrase “government spending” is uttered, why, you rise up and denounce it. That’s what John McCain did, calling the dam project “ridiculous” and comparing Congresspeople to alcoholics who “can’t resist taking a drink.” (A side note: I recall hearing rumors on the radio during the shutdown period that House speaker John Boehner is a functioning alcoholic. If true, I don’t blame him–I would be too if I had to regularly deal with the far-right-wingers in his party.)
But what anyone else looking at this spending might conclude is, a lot of it is actually for pretty useful stuff. Low-income heating assistance in particular desperately needs the funds, as I wrote about in my last post. Global warming is causing more and bigger wildfires. Now that we’ve found out the NSA’s been spying on everybody, that Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is sounding more and more important. The Colorado flood repairs and the Ohio River dam project, which affects people in Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky, are the kind of things that are supposed to be the responsibility of state and local governments. On the other hand, state and local governments have been hit hard by the recession, and Bloomberg News, that bastion of liberalism, has reported the dam project as being essential for the flow of interstate trade. So it looks like pretty much all of this “pork” spending will actually be really good for the economy and for most Americans.
Well, except for the smallest piece. I think we as Americans can all agree to tell Mrs. Lautenberg to go fuck herself.