When it comes to intransigent ideologues zealously demagoguing spending, you can't beat the GOP Tea Party frosh. Now, we learn from Sam Stein and Alex Becker that when it comes to hassling Cabinet officials for pork and tagging appropriations onto spending bills, those same GOP frosh aren't at all shy about thrusting their own snouts deep into the spending trough.
Cates Landing, TN, needed another $20 million on top of the $33 million already spent there to build a port, industrial park, roads and a rail line, but Republicans and Tea Party zealots last March were busily demanding billions in spending cuts, and the program that included $13 million in federal funds for Cates Landing - the other $7 million was coming from the state of Tennessee - looked like it was about to get axed.
Tea Party frosh Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) went to Washington to rein in spending and slash taxes, so burning $13 million to put another port on the Mississippi River at a place that didn't even have major roads or a nearby railhead was obviously a great opportunity to save taxpayer dollars.
Or not. Before you could say "fiscal conservative," Fincher was all over Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about funding for Cates Landing. He met with LaHood personally, and sent him a letter asking that the program $13 million be obligated to the port project.
While Fincher was shaking down LaHood, he sent out a press release crowing, "I am proud to announce that this week I voted to cut $1 billion in wasteful and ineffective government programs. This is a good step to rein in out-of-control Federal spending..."
Fincher spokesperson Sara Sendek hemmed and hawed, "He (Fincher) believes government does play a roll in creating an environment that attracts private investment and job growth." What sort of pinko-commie, share-the-wealth, anti-Ayn Randian, pencil-necked, granola-eating socialist welfare statement is that? "It is very important for Tennessee's economy and for the country's economy," Sendek insisted. Sendek is not related to Maurice Sendak, so, despite the rumbling and bumbling and tumbling, it's not a childrens' story when she tells you Where the Wild Spending Is.
Fincher got the $13 million he needed for his port to nowhere, and Tennessee added a bit to the $1.25 in federal funds it receives for every $1 in federal taxes it raises.
Speaking of corporate jets, which we weren't, but everybody else seems to be, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), another Tea Party deficit hawk, stood up on the floor of the United States Congress and told America, "The federal government has maxed out its credit card." However, Johnson apparently figured the federal credit card could squeeze out an extra $4.4 mil to fix up a nice, long runway for those corporate jets at his local aerodrome. He and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) wrote the Federal Aviation Administration asking to do just that at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.
"There is a difference between smart federal spending and the reckless, irresponsible waste of tax dollars the American people are fed up with," hemmed and hawed Johnson spokesperson Jessica Towhey. "This airport is a growing hub for travel and business in Northeast Ohio."
The airport, whose website will tell you is situated on 1,400 rural acres halfway between "the two major cities of the Mahoning Valley," boasts regularly scheduled flights to Orlando, Florida on Thursdays and Sundays, and has "ready-to-use facilities for...corporate and general aviation." At least we now have a definitive definition for "growing." Admittedly, an extra $4.4 mil will help just about anything grow some.
The FAA hadn't yet come across with the cash for Youngstown-Warren Regional, so the growing might be on hold for awhile, especially since Eddie DeBartolo hasn't had to fly to a Niner game in years.
Jessica Towhey is no relation to the Brown Towhee, so Jessica won't be bathing in your backyard birdbath any time soon.
The one airline that flies out of Youngstown-Warren Regional, Allegiant, wouldn't you know, happens also to service Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, which is a fairly grown-up hub for travel and business in South Florida, if you count making videos of young women on Spring Break taking their tops off a business, which most do, and a very lucrative one at that.
Tea Party Rep. Allen West (R-FL) spent Tuesday, March 15, joining 54 Republican legislators in voting down a temporary spending bill because it was too wasteful and hadn't made deep enough cuts, then spent Wednesday, March 16 crowing about snagging $21 million for a second runway at Ft Lauderdale-Hollywood International to accommodate the influx of projectile-vomiting youths and topless co-eds.
West had derided the Tuesday bill, which slashed $6 billion from the federal budget, pontificating, "The American people recognize that we must no longer take these small, calculated measures."
Then, Wednesday, he lifted his snout from his $21 million trough long enough to snort, "At this crucial time for our economy, it is imperative that we encourage this kind of development..."
West is no relation to Adam West, so he won't be dressing up in a Batman costume and palling around with a "ward" dressed in short-shorts any time soon. We hope.
There is, of course, a pattern developing here, and that's that everyone else's spending is reckless, irresponsible, wasteful and ineffective, especially if it's going to poor people in Blue States, while the slop in their own troughs is a smart investment in critical and economically necessary infrastructure with vital national security implications, no matter how far out in the boonies that airport is, or how far from a rail line that dock is going to be.
"I don't think anybody is saying that when the federal government is spending money, that no congressman should try to fund projects his district needs," said Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler, contradicting what every Tea Party zealot has been saying since the dawn of zealotry. "I think what they are saying is we don't want egregious, crazy, pork barrel spending."
Egregious, crazy, pork barrel spending, like on Medicare, or Medicaid, or for clean air or clean water, or education, or cops and firefighters, or to keep banks and financial institutions honest. Tea Party zealots know important spending when they see it, like on a Mississippi river port 28 miles from the nearest railroad, or to extend rural airport runways for corporate jets.
Lots of zealous Tea Party frosh were caught thrusting their snouts deep into the federal funding trough and rooting around shamelessly, including Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) hitting up the Agriculture Department for $7.5 million for the American Nicaraguan Foundation and the Nicaragua-focused Fabretto Children's Foundation (what's up with that?); Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) hauling in $10 million and $20 million, respectively, on a couple of defense bill "en bloc" amendments, the new earmarks; and Reps. Kristi Noem (R-SD), Scott Tipton (R-CO), Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Kevin Yoder (R-KS) asking the Agriculture Department to funnel any otherwise unused funds not back to the taxpayer or to pay down the federal deficit, but to fight bark beetles in the Rockies.
Yoder is no relation to Yoda, but might possess Jedi mind-clouding powers anyway.
Elected representatives have long worked diligently to bring home the pork, and some of those projects might actually have been worthwhile, but Tea Party zealots claim they are possessed of a tight fiscal fist, and make a great to-do over what a virtue that tight fiscal fist is. Screaming about debts and spending between rooting for fat morsels in the funding trough is what the lay individual calls hypocrisy.
Makes you long for the good old days, when elected representatives just went on about morals and family values and the sacred institution of marriage only to get caught wearing a diaper while playing flashlight games with some financially-compensated twenty-year-old blond. At least that sort of hypocrisy makes for a few days of lurid tabloid fun, and doesn't threaten to crash the global economic system.