Cheat-Seeking Missles

Friday, August 03, 2007

Fighting Pork: Now More Than Ever

Scroll through the lists of Congressional pork projects, from pickle museums to bridges to nowhere, and you'll find one common thread that neatly ties them all together: Newness.

Members of Congress like to bestow on their districts shiny new gifts, at the expense of dreary, boring infrastructure maintenance projects. Maintenance isn't sexy, but as we learned in Minneapolis this week, it sure is necessary.

The I-35 W bridge was, ironically, undergoing maintenance when it collapsed, but there is still very much a point to be made here. The maintenance project, as I recall, was costing something in the neighborhood of $14 million; in other words, it was a routine affair, not what was needed to lift the bridge out of deficiency and into safety.

The sorts of repairs -- rebuilding, really -- the bridge required are not inexpensive:
Concern about bridge safety has increased in the wake of that bridge span collapse in Minnesota, and figures show that repairing all bridges considered structurally deficient would take at least a generation and cost more than $188 billion. That works out to at least $9.4 billion a year over 20 years, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. (source)
The federal government is now providing about $40 billion a year to improve and expand the nation's highways and bridges -- but that's new construction and maintenance, and highways eat up a lot of the maintenance budget. Plus, there's no guarantee even these funding levels will be sustained in future transportation bills.

Congress should wake up. Bridges, sewer systems, water systems and other non-sexy items they should view as mission-critical to their task of taking care of America are in disrepair and are more important than, say,
  • $4,500,000 for a bandage component that utilizes compounds found in shrimp heads, or
  • $9,500,000 for the Extended ColdWeather Clothing System, or
  • $1.35 million for the “Obesity in the Military Research Program” or
  • $5.5 million for the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center. (source)
I'm sure Ernie's heirs have the wherewithal to foot that bill themselves.

In making this point, am I no different than the lefty maniacs who blame the bridge failure on Bush and the Iraq war, pointing out, as I do about pork, that the trillions spent on Iraq could have been spent on bridges?

No, not at all. As I said, repairing our infrastructure is mission-critical to taking care of America, as is meeting the Islamist war against us head-on. Pork doesn't fit in with these budget priorities.

By some accounts, we've blown over $250 billion on pork since 1991. The cost of bringing all the deficient bridges out of deficiency is estimated at $188 billion. Which do you think would be the more intelligent way to spend money?

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