Sep 18 2007
Excessive government spending rages on. And on. And on.
If you think local government is wasteful — does the $4 million computer software system purchased by the city of Topeka come to mind? — that's chump change compared to how the big guys do it in Washington.
Last Wednesday, the U.S. Senate approved a $106 billion transportation and housing bill that included $2 billion for "earmarked" projects that include a North Dakota peace garden, a Montana baseball stadium and a Las Vegas history museum.
The transportation part of the bill was for $63 billion, of which "earmarks" accounted for about $8 billion, or nearly 14 percent.
What's wrong with this picture?
Try a bridge in Minneapolis.
Or a decaying air traffic control system that snarls air travel from coast to coast.
Not to mention a highway here and a highway there.
Wasteful earmarks continue to raid the federal bank vault while needed repairs on infrastructure throughout the U.S. wait another year. And another. And another.
According to newly released report by the transportation department's inspector general, as published by USA Today:
- Earmarks reduce funding for states' core transportation programs.
- Earmarks don't always coincide with the transportation department's research goals.
- Earmarks fund low-priority projects over high-priority projects.
- Earmarks fund ineligible projects.
- Earmarks disrupt the transportation department's ability to fund programs when earmarks exceed authorized funding levels.
Consider that peace gardens and history museums continue to force the Federal Aviation Administration to delay updating high-priority air traffic control towers.
Also in peril are bridges across the land.
After the Minneapolis bridge collapse last month, it has become evident that Congress for years has failed to fund repairs on scores of "structurally deficient" bridges, while at the same time lawmakers earmarked money for projects such as the "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska.
The inspector general's report was prepared at the request of Sen. Tom Coburn, R.-Okla., a critic of earmarks.
The report clearly validates Coburn's concerns.
But Coburn is fighting an uphill battle to ax earmarks, or to even stem the bank raids.
Coburn and a handful of other lawmakers routinely propose to strip earmarks from bills, but colleagues want no part of it.
The spending habit is obviously hard to shake.
Last week, Coburn offered an amendment prohibiting spending on earmarks until every structurally deficient bridge was fixed.
Makes a lot of sense to us.
It failed, 82 to 14.
It is obvious wasteful government spending knows no limits, much less an earmark it didn't like.