Friday, March 20, 2009

Pork? Maybe

Among the 9,000 special "earmarks" in the new $410 billion Omnibus Spending Bill cobbled together by Congress, some are sure to raise eyebrows and even tickle some critics as outrageous examples of pork.

Take the $500,000 to be sent to Sparta, N.C., to create a teapot museum to attract tourists. This might rank alongside the 1991 effort to spend $500,000 converting orchestra maestro Lawrence Welk's North Dakota birthplace home into a museum as non-priority spending.

Then what of the $1.4 million earmark for extending the city of Boise's geothermal heating system to the Boise State University campus? Definitely no pork there.

The project will save the university $80,000 a year in energy costs that can be used for tangible academic programs, will expand BSU's "green" programs, reduce demand for coal- and hydro-generated electricity and keep dozens of construction workers employed for months.

Among the 59 other earmarks in Idaho's $41.2 million share of the spending bill is $16 million for salmon recovery, surely a worthwhile step to save the species that's been battered and decimated by dams.

Many if not most of the earmarks soon on their way to local communities have significant scientific and economic benefits that don't deserve broad-brush derision of them as "pork."

The few turkeys that make it into the spending legislation hardly reduce the credibility of other worthwhile projects or the continued need for elected representatives of the public to be able to shape federal spending for worthwhile projects.

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