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4.2.08

Landrieu defends wasteful spending to defend her seat

Sen. Mary Landrieu is not going to go away without a struggle, as she indicated with her defense of “earmarks” in the face of a growing public revulsion about them. These are specific spending requests placed into appropriations bills during the committee phase of investigation, often by members on the special committees assigned to look at all appropriations bills, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

Democrat Landrieu currently serves on the Senate’s and already is in hot water about a series of earmarks for funding schools nationwide (including in Louisiana in the first year) with a reading program mainly geared towards Washington, D.C. schools. Officials there claimed they didn’t really want the program and the timing of the earmark relative to campaign fundraisers staged for Landrieu have led many to charge Landrieu with exchanging her support for campaign donations (which followed on the heels of yet another incident of questionable fundraising.)

More generally, Landrieu argues for earmarks – using rhetoric stunningly myopic. For one, Landrieu seems to think the $17 billion currently set aside for these “is made to sound like a huge amount of money.” That’s only because it is a huge amount of money, as well as spent for the wrong reasons. It’s funny how Landrieu has whined on several occasions over far smaller sums of money, such as when the state and federal government were jockeying over whether the state should pay $800 million in matching funds for hurricane recovery (the federal government by now having pumped in perhaps 100 times that figure). To math teachers, a number’s value is its number and larger numbers are always larger than smaller ones. To Landrieu, it seems numbers and their relative placements are defined only by politics.

Myopia also extends to her philosophical defense of the practice. Along the lines of the argument that “worthy” projects may be stalled for years that earmarks promote, she said “There are actually some good ideas that don't come out of the federal bureaucracy.” Perhaps, but that does not then necessarily mean that an overtly political process is the only or even best way to create a priority list given that process creates tremendous incentives to place more priority on a legislator’s political career than on any objective criteria. While some argue that this process helps “good” projects along, they conveniently forget to admit that it equally elevates “bad” projects that otherwise never should see any funding.

An excellent example in the case of Landrieu concerns the occasions she used her political muscle to influence money to be spent for other dubious purposes that could have gone to flood protection prior to the 2005 hurricane disasters (on one, interfering with the evaluation process that qualified a marginal project). Generally speaking, Citizens Against Government Waste named her “Porker of the Month” for Sept., 2003 and gave her a special award for profligacy in 2006. Part of the latter spending another group, Taxpayers for Common Sense, has criticized her for what appears to be one of the biggest boondoggles floating around the federal government, replacing a lock on New Orleans’ Industrial Canal when little in the way of cost-effectiveness can justify spending nearly $800 million.

When it’s said that earmarks serve a need and are just a fraction of the budget, it’s like saying you should pardon a drug dealer caught selling only small amounts of controlled substances who says she did it to help supply a need and thus is less guilty than a greedy dealer of large quantities. Size and intent contingencies doesn’t make it right or good public policy. Of course, Landrieu doesn’t understand this because she is blinded by her belief that government is not there just to provide basic protection from uncontrollable misfortune or evil and otherwise not interfere in people’s lives, but rather that it’s there to redistribute resources to rectify presumed “unfairness” – and part of that redistribution to her is in using it to maintain her place in elective office.

It’s just one more reason why Landrieu’s time in the Senate need not be extended past the end of this year.

1 comment:

baton rouge du nord said...

The Baton Rouge Business Report says Jim Bernhard, CEO of The Shaw Group and former head of the Louisiana Democratic Party, might run against Landrieu as a Dem or an Independent. Even her party loyal are backing away from her.

But, the same article said Cleo Fields is counseling him to run. And Fields and Landrieu have long had a rift.

Happy Mardi Gras, and laissez le bon temps roulet!