Saturday, September 17, 2005

The long and wasteful road

With the President's introduction of an ambitious new disaster recovery plan for the Gulf Coast region, politicians and pundits alike are once again talking about our deficit. "Where are we going to find the money?" they ask.

Many are saying that rebuilding the region can't be accomplished without a tax hike. Still others are saying that the existing tax cuts need to be repealed. This, of course, is based on the notion that a crucial source of funding for hurricane aid has been squandered in the "wasteful" act of giving tax money back to the people that earned it.

Well, since we're on the subject of waste, let's look at how our congress is now managing the tax money we give them. One recent example that is fresh on many of our minds is the transportation bill that was passed just last month. This boondoggle allocated some $286 billion ostensibly to improve various facets of the nation's roads and highways. A record 6,371 pet projects were included in this bill by lawmakers looking to spruce up their communities... and their images.

Here is a list of some of the "improvements" we apparently couldn't do without:

  • $200,000 for a deer avoidance system in Weedsport, N.Y.
  • $3 million for dust control on Arkansas rural roads.
  • $200 million for a bridge in Alaska that would serve an island with 50 residents
  • $2.3 million for landscaping along the Ronald Reagan Freeway in California
  • $10 million to Iowa State University for "Portland Cement Concrete Pavement Technology"
  • $1 million to the University of Northern Iowa for building and equipping a "Native Roadside Vegetation Enhancement Center"
  • $500,000 to build riverfront trails in Warsaw, Mo.
  • $1,125,000 for a parking lot and bike paths for the Bozeman, Mont., public library
  • $2 million for improvements at the California Trail Interpretive Center in Nevada
  • $500,000 to build a "Transportation and Heritage Museum" in Townsend, Tenn.
  • $3.5 million to improve the access road to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Box Elder County, Utah
  • $6.5 million to design and build a welcome center in Bennington, Vt.
  • $7 million to the University of Oklahoma for research on tracking shipping containers
  • $1 million to build a transportation center at the Philadelphia Zoo
  • $2 million for interpretive signs and trails in Pittsburgh parks
  • $3 million to repair and restore an outdoor area at 82nd Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City
  • $480,000 to rehabilitate a historic warehouse on the Erie Canal

This bill was passed overwhelmingly by our "deficit-conscious" lawmakers in August. Even the President doesn't get a pass on this one because he should have vetoed it without question. However, this type of out of control spending is not a recent trend -- it has been taking place literally for decades thanks to a congress that grows more fiscally irresponsible every year. That us why it angers me that whenever we find ourselves in in a deficit, the President (if he is a Republican) is always blamed and the only solution that is ever proposed by those on the left is to give the children in congress even more of our hard earned dollars to take to the candy store. That is an insult.

Tax hikes are not the solution. Neither is a repeal of the tax cut needed to address the rebuilding efforts in the gulf -- or any of the other problems this country faces today. The money we need is already there. What is now needed is more accountability from congress on their spending habits as well as a greater faith in the American people themselves. With contributions for Katrina aid now exceeding half a billion, I would argue that we are able to spend our money quite wisely when left to our own devices.

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