The Highway Bill: “Egregious and Remarkable”
An article entitled Highway Bill Full of Special Projects tells another government spending horror story:
When President Eisenhower proposed the first national highway bill, there were two projects singled out for funding. The latest version has, by one estimate, 6,371 of these special projects, a record that some say politicians should be ashamed of.
The projects in the six-year, $286.4 billion highway and mass transit bill passed by Congress last week range from $200,000 for a deer avoidance system in Weedsport, N.Y., to $330 million for a highway in Bakersfield, Calif.
For the beneficiaries — almost every member of Congress — they bring jobs and better quality lives to their communities and states. To critics, they are pork barrel spending at its worst.
“Egregious and remarkable,” exclaimed Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., about the estimated $24 billion in the bill set aside for highways, bus stops, parking lots and bike trails requested by lawmakers.
McCain, one of only four senators to oppose the bill, listed several dozen “interesting” projects, including $480,000 to rehabilitate a historic warehouse on the Erie Canal and $3 million for dust control mitigation on Arkansas rural roads.
His favorite, he said, was $2.3 million for landscaping on the Ronald Reagan Freeway in California. “I wonder what Ronald Reagan would say.”
Reagan, in fact, vetoed a highway bill over what he said were spending excesses, only to be overridden by Congress. Meanwhile, according to a Cato Institute analysis, special projects or “earmarks” numbered 10 in 1982, 152 in 1987, 538 in 1991 and 1,850 in 1998. The 1998 highway act set aside some $9 billion for earmarks, well under half the newest plan.
“This bill will be known as the most earmarked transportation bill in the history of our nation,” said Keith Ashdown, vice president of policy for Taxpayers for Common Sense, which tracks such projects in congressional legislation…
…few lawmakers are willing to turn down a new road or bridge in their district…
Lawmakers were sending out press releases bragging of their accomplishments even before the bill was passed, said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. “It’s a symbol of why everything else is out of control, not just highways.”
The biggest beneficiaries tend to be the lawmakers with the biggest clout…
The highway bill is one area where the minority Democrats aren’t forgotten…
Not every lawmaker came seeking gifts. Two conservative Republicans from Arizona, Jeff Flake and John Shadegg, wrote Young asking that the $14 million the committee was allotting to each House member for earmarks be sent instead to the state transportation department.
Flake’s office said that in the end he didn’t take any projects, and Flake and Shadegg were two of only eight House members to vote against the bill.
An earlier posting first highlighted the ridiculous actions contained in the highway bill.
It is all part of a game where politicians of both parties spend a portion of our hard-earned monies as if those funds were nothing but Monopoly play money.
Why does this happen? Because Misguided Incentives Drive Public Sector Taxation.
A more complete discussion of the perverse incentives that exist within the public sector are discussed in the posting entitled A Call to Action: Responding to Government Being Neither Well-Meaning Nor Focused on the Public Interest, where numerous links provide the opportunity to dive more deeply into both the root causes and the symptoms of an irresponsible, out-of-control public sector.