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May 24, 2006
Earmarks Take Relief From The Needy

Don't say we didn't sound the alarm early on pork-barrel politics and their destructive potential to GOP midterm hopes. The Washington Post has an article that shows how victims of Hurricane Katrina remain homeless while the Republicans in the Senate pork up the emergency relief bill with hundreds of millions of dollars for their corporate pals:

BILOXI, Miss. -- This city's east side remains largely abandoned, a bleak panorama of empty lots and abandoned homes left behind by the tradesmen, shrimpers and casino workers who once lived here.

Hundreds had little or no insurance. For people such as 83-year-old Elzora Brown, a retired dry-cleaning presser whose little frame house was waterlogged up to the eaves, there's not enough federal disaster aid for repairs. "Whatever the Lord sees fit, that's what I'll have," she said.

Just down the coast in Pascagoula, defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. similarly didn't have enough insurance to cover hurricane losses at its shipyards. But the company isn't awaiting divine intervention.

It has an ally in the U.S. Senate and is slated to receive $140 million for rebuilding.

I wrote about the shameful bailout of Northrup Grumman three weeks ago. Trent Lott insisted on keeping the cash outlay to Northrup despite its own failure to insure its facility, opting to gamble on good weather rather than pay for insurance. Lott and the rest of the Senate now wants to indemnify Northrup against stupidity with our tax dollars. That's not just outrageous, it also removes the incentive for large companies to get insurance at all, harming that industry and making them more reliant on tax subsidies for their existence. And it's not as if Northrup would go bankrupt if they had to face the consequences of their own bad decision; they made a record profit of $2.4 billion in 2005 on an operating income of 7.1%, even with the loss from Katrina.

Nor is that the only ridiculous earmark in this package, as the Post notes. While Katrina victims must rely on volunteers to slowly repair or rebuild their homes, the home of Jefferson Davis will get $38 million for its restoration -- the same Jefferson Davis who rebelled against the United States because of undue government interference in the South. How's that for rich irony? At least we know the rich part is accurate. That comes along with the previously derided "Railroad to Nowehere", for which we will pay $700 million to relocate train tracks that we just spent $250 million to repair after Katrina, thanks to Lott and fellow Mississippi Republican Thad Cochran.

It's not just the Republicans, either. Ken Salazar (D-CO) has hijacked the emergency appropriations bill for Katrina and Iraq in order to open a new war -- on the bark beetle. This insect has attacked Colorado's pine trees, but rather than propose this expenditure in, say, Colorado, Salazar instead piggybacked the pork onto Katrina relief. Ted Kennedy tossed in $15 million for New England shellfisherman to assist in the economic impact of a red tide in 2005. Bear in mind that the Gulf Coast's fishing industry has been almost wiped out by Katrina. Kennedy will exploit their utter loss in order to buy a few Gloucester votes.

The Republicans, however, are in charge -- and they campaigned for control of Congress twelve years ago by deriding cynical, exploitive legislative techniques like these. They have proven themselves, with some notable exceptions, as corruptible as their Democratic counterparts when left around the money too long. As long as they continue to defend these abuses of the taxpayers they represent, then they leave themselves open to the inevitable juxtapositions of suffering constituents and pork-rich supporters. And they deserve every pixel and inkblot of it.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 24, 2006 8:56 AM

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