Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Little Economist Who Could

I'm a big fan of Robert Reich (former Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton), and he's a regular contributor to that golderned liberally biased Marketplace radio program (two tastes that definitely taste great together, I must say). Here's some of his commentary from Wednesday's morning program:

Robert Reich: According to the conservative watchdog groups, Citizens Against Government Waste, pork programs have risen from fewer than 2000 a year in the mid 1990s to almost 14,000 this year. If every member of Congress who got some pork this summer just quietly returned it, brought back all the bacon it greased for contractors and corporations, we'd have more than enough to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. The President should announce a Return the Pork Day. Maybe set aside one of those big rooms in the White House one Sunday afternoon. Politicians just come in, put their lard on the table, and leave. No questions asked. I'm actually serious here. Congress should just reopen those laws--the pork hasn't been spent yet. It was just larded out two months ago. Get the money back and give it to New Orleans and the Gulf.

But there's a bigger point here. For years, the federal government has been spending money for capital projects that are nonsensical, but have powerful politicians behind them. Meanwhile, important capital projects go unfunded because there's no money. The Army Corps of Engineers didnt' have $42 million to fortify levies around New Orleans because the funds went to brain-dead projects like Alaska's $231 million Bridge to Nowhere. [Ed note: emphasis follows raising of speaker's voice to make a point]

That'd be a great idea. He also goes on to suggest the government create a capital projects budget that gets prioritized instead of allowing Congress to willy nilly load down bills with pork. Maybe President Bush should give it a listen. He's got some good ideas.


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