Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Can the Age of Pork End?

This is goodness and promising. The Boston Globe has a front-page piece on the shameful pork barrel politics in our own state house.

May this be the first flicker as they turn up the heat. This is the wrong time and place for bringing home the bacon or whatever cliché you choose. Both at the national and state level, voters want at least an effort to move away from such waste and disregard for the voters.

Humbling note: I rant much and often on the inadequacy of the Globe's reporting, or lack thereof. Lisa Wangsness has consistently done the best political coverage. The paper's recent history suggests they'll fire her in cost cutting. Let us hope not.

I bet that the Herald and Phoenix will join this chant. It's Readers Digest/Rush Limbaugh perfect for circulation. Self-serving legislators pander to their constituents with old-style pork. They tuck wasteful expenses into useful bills. Then they can go home saying, "See what I did for you." They expect campaign contributions and votes in exchange.

This is 2007. Voters say they are sick of that. They overwhelmingly elected a new executive team to bring progressive politics back to Massachusetts. That leads to several questions, including:
  • Are voters fed up enough to give up their small local benefits for the larger good?
  • Will the MSM pound on the most shameless legislators?
  • Will publicizing these abuses cause voters to scream and even other legislators to out each other's pork barreling?
The other euphemism for this waste is earmarking. The article noted that the House included 1,4780 amendments to the budget just introduced by legislators. Hundreds of these are stealing from the public for pork. "The amendments, which include so-called earmarks and broader proposals to increase the budgets of various agencies, total 'well north of $500 million and counting,' a Ways and Means Committee source said."

Put another way, these expenditures reduce the amount available for funding Gov. Deval Patrick's progressive policies. His aim to set foundations that will better our lives in general and many of which will produce job growth and other revenue enhancement. Pork that gets gobbled up in a single community and produces nothing are not in the same class.

The RD-style list of shame does not appear to be online. However, the print edition highlights a few of these, including:
  • $100,000 — Mayflower II 50th anniversary celebration
  • $350,000 — Melrose stadium lighting
  • $25,000 — therapeutic horseback riding and other alternative therapies pilot program
  • $150,000 — UMASS study of winter moth worm
So at the least, each Rep who wants to play local philanthropist with state money should have to defend vigorously every earmark.

Unfortunately, this article did not tie which piggy wanted to add which amendment to his or her trough. That must be part of future coverage.

Like our colonial heritage of the public stocks, shaming can only be good here.

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Uncle said...

For the most part, I agree with you. However, I take it the trees in your neighbourhood have not yet been denuded by the winter moth worm, and that you aren't in danger of losing all of them to this literally alien infestation. They are coming to you soon, and I don't much care how the state funds studies to control them, as long as they do. Sometimes what looks like pork is prime rib.

Anonymous said...

When will people get it into their heads that the winter moth problem is comparable to the gypsy moth problem? It is a SERIOUS issue in need of SERIOUS study, and we've already wasted, what, two years because of Mitt and his idiocy? We are putting our trees and green spaces at risk by doing nothing.

massmarrier said...

Well, back to the post, the issue is willingness to look at both each and all earmarks. Perhaps some or many of them have justification. Then, the issue becomes whether they are important enough right now to divert funds from other programs and issues.

Unfortunately, legislators avoid criticizing each other's earmarks, for fear that they won't get their own through. So, everyone gets something and the commonwealth suffers.

If there are close to 1,500 in the budget, we can assume 1) each will have defenders, and 2) that hundreds would not stand up to scrutiny.

In the alleged new world of Massachusetts politics, the overdue scrutiny must happen. It is the mutual back scratching that has gotten us to a stagnant budget process.