October 31, 2007

Getting Screwed Through Abstinence

What is it about Pennsylvania politicians and pork? Yesterday, we covered the ongoing story of John Murtha, King of Pork. Today, the Politico reveals that Arlen Specter wants pork for virginity, screwing taxpayers while promoting abstinence:

The senator, who supports abortion rights, is turning the state into the abstinence-earmark capital of the country, directing more than $8 million into dozens of programs and, in the process, arching more than a few eyebrows.

He’s done it again this year, setting aside $1 million for an Erie women’s center that provides “abortion recovery” counseling, a community group once chaired by a late supporter and 23 other school districts, hospitals and local organizations. No other member of Congress earmarks money for abstinence education.

The reason Specter does it offers insight into the political machinations behind — and the abiding allure of — the narrow-interest spending requests maligned by fiscal watchdogs but desired as much as ever by members of Congress.

And here's where the rubber meets the road, if you'll pardon a terrible pun. Conservatives, including many fiscal conservatives, want more emphasis on abstinence. For that matter, so do I, at least in terms of sex education in schools.

However, as a conservative, I question these earmarks just as I do any other manipulations of federal funding for political purposes. The funding of Pennsylvania abstinence programs should come from Pennsylvanians, if they desire them. Taxpayers in other states should not have to pay the bill for programs that exist within Pennsylvania, just as they shouldn't have to foot the bill for Johnstown's questionable revival or for hippie museums in New York.

Specter, an abortion-rights supporter, wants this money sent to these abstinence programs in his state in order to burnish his thin conservative credentials. However, the abstinence programs represent only the tip of the iceberg. Specter has 188 earmarks in the Labor/HHS/Education appropriations bill, the highest of any member in the upper chamber. Ted Stevens and Tom Harkin have earmarked more money ($51 million and $60 million, respectively), but Specter has spread the wealth more broadly than either.

Earmarks, simply put, allow legislators to buy votes and pay off supporters in a legal manner. Regardless of the righteousness of the cause, it perverts the idea of open government and ensures an entrenched, careerist legislature. If we only object to the corruption that doesn't benefit our causes, then we have become the problem.


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