Monday, August 08, 2005

Washington's Wasteful Ways: Alaskan Pork Chops

Usually, we pretty much stick to education-related issues. But sometimes, I run across one of those stories in the MSM that just makes me fume, if only because it makes me think about the gigantic amount of taxpayers' money that is simply being thrown away by the folks in Washington: (emphasis are added)
In Ketchikan, Alaska, home to about 8,000 people, community leaders complain the town is suffering for lack of land for development. "This is a community that's choking on itself," says Blaine Ashcraft, business manager of the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce. With tourists streaming in, Ketchikan's sights are fixed on building a bridge to nearby Gravina Island, home to 50 people, 1,800 acres of available timber in the Tongass National Forest, and the community's airport, accessible now by a seven-minute ferry ride.

The proposed bridge would be nearly as long as the Golden Gate Bridge and high enough for cruise ships to pass underneath. It's being paid for in part by $223 million worth of designated funds, so-called earmarks, included in the $286.4 billion federal highway and mass transit bill getting wrapped up by Congress last week. Critics call it the Bridge to Nowhere, and cite it as a prime example of congressional pork. "It is an abomination," says Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a fiscal watchdog group. But Alaska Rep. Don Young, chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, earmarked the project as "high priority." He's not alone. Members of Congress stuffed the final legislation with more than 6,300 earmarks worth about $23 billion. "It's sort of like building highways by ransom," says Stephen Slivinski, a budget analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute. "They divide the spoils in exchange for a vote on the bill."
There is more to read in the whole piece.

Simple arithmetic ($223 million divided by 8000 inhabitants) shows that if the federal government simply cut a check for every man, woman, and child living in Ketchikan, the check would amount to a hefty $278,750.00 for each person.

The town of Ketchikan is not connected to any road system. In fact, what roads there are dead-end about 10 miles out of town. The population of the place itself is, according to one
source, shrinking, and the ferries that are in current use run about half empty during their 6 daily runs to the Gavina Island.

I hope that the President finally makes good on his threat to use his veto; the "transportation bill" certainly merits it. Somebody needs to bring those spendthrifts in Congress to heel, as it is obvious that members of both parties have forgotten that it's not their money that they are so cavalierly throwing away, but that it's the people's money.

The Alaskan Bridge to Nowhere has a well-documented history that stretches back some time:
here, here and here.

Don't pass-up the opportunity to take a look at
this very interesting "thank-you" letter written by Alaskan writer Nick Jans. He shows the rest of us just how much largesse that his state is receiving from taxpayers in "donor" states such as Texas, Florida, Michigan, Arizona and California. Here is a taste:
As you stand at the gas pump this summer, think of Alaska. No, not as a fantasy to escape the heat or the price of your latest fill-up. Instead, consider that each spin of the pump's meter means money slurping north, straight from your wallet.

If you live in Texas, Georgia, Florida or New Jersey, that steady siphon is a certainty — your gas tax dollars are funding a procession of lavish road and bridge projects thousands of miles away, including a pile of boondoggles that we Alaskans don't need, and that many of us don't want.

It's a fact: For every dollar we Alaskans pay in at-the-pump gas taxes, we get $6.60 back, thanks to you generous, unwitting donors.

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a non-partisan watchdog group in Washington, that breaks down to $1,150 for every Alaskan in "earmark" funding for in-state projects alone, 25 times what the average American garners for his or her home state.
Jan's missive effectively drags the whole corrupt system of highway pork into the light of day.

Alaska has no state income tax, and in fact gives each resident an annual payment from royalties collected on the sale of oil.

Update: (08/10) *sigh* President Bush, who has yet to veto anything during his entire term of office, has signed this pork-filled bill into law. Let the feeding-frenzy begin!

Have these people forgotten that we are a nation at war? Doesn't Congress understand that we are combating a group of very determined enemies who must be destroyed?

Instead of spending money on bridges to nowhere and other Useless Pork, those funds should be invested in securing our practically wide-open borders from terrorist infiltration and the construction of factories for the purpose of manufacturing the armaments and armor that are needed by our troops in the field to win victory over the terrorists.

Congress should be ashamed of itself.

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