The $286.4 billion federal transportation bill that became law this week is the largest public works appropriation in history. It’s the new high-water mark in incumbent congressmen’s efforts to buy their re-elections by spending taxpayers’ money on local projects. The vote-for-my-project-and-I’ll-vote-for-yours mentality has resulted in 6,371 “special projects” for which spending is earmarked. The previous highway bill contained 1,850 of these. In 1987 the number was only 152. The 6,371 new projects in the 1,752-page bill insure that no politician is left behind in dishing out favors to ingratiate himself with the electorate.
The projects help congressmen not only to perpetuate themselves in office but to create monuments to themselves. A $231 million bridge in Anchorage is to be named “Don Young’s Way.” Alaska’s Don Young is chairman of the House Transportation Committee. Being chairman is a big advantage. Alaska is the third least-populated state but got the fourth most in earmarked special projects. These include a $223 million appropriation for another bridge, which will be larger than San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. It will connect Ketchikan (population 8,000) with an island having a population of 50. Alaska also got $3 million—I’m serious, this is true—to produce a film on how Alaska spends its highway money.
In the free market, the basis of decisions is economic. Politicians, on the other hand, base even economic decisions on political considerations. Is it any wonder that government is so uneconomic and that the national debt continues to increase? It’s “tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect.”
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