Editorial by John Ziegler

Greenwood Likes the Taste of Pork

1/1/2002

A recent BCCT article entitled, "Greenwood Shows Bucks the Bucks," revealed two important realities. First, it illustrated exactly why our political system will never allow for even marginally efficient spending of our tax money. Secondly, it demonstrated that while Congressman Jim Greenwood may technically be a Republican, he is certainly no conservative, and might as well be a Democrat.

The aforementioned story focused on $7.13 million in new federal spending that Greenwood has been able to convince his buddies in Congress that our area (or at least Greenwood's favorite constituents) desperately needs. Among the items on Greenwood's Christmas list of pork-filled goodies is $90,000 for a study on how to make Route 13 a prettier and more walker-friendly highway.

As someone who has spent a lot of time on Route 13 and even recently walked it, I would be happy to report to our Congress that, unless this project is of a much higher priority than I have any reason to believe that it should be, to please just forget it. It is simply a lost cause. I won't even charge them the $90,000 that the Bucks County Planning Commission is going to use on sketches of how nice the road would look like with some more trees.

However, the $90,000 in "pork spending" that Greenwood got for that study, pales in comparison with the boondoggle he may pull off in getting almost $3 million dollars (not yet officially part of the 7.13 million in local gifts) to build sound barriers on I-95 in Bensalem. Because no lanes on the highway are being added, normally the federal government would be precluded from paying for that type of construction. But Greenwood, who is now listed by YourCongress.com as the 28th most powerful person in the House of Representatives, proved his new-found muscle by getting a special provision added to just apply to Bensalem. Now the county must agree with Greenwood that such a project is actually necessary. Why is it that I have a sneaky suspicion that they will decide that millions in free money from Uncle Sam suddenly puts sound barriers on I-95 at the top of their agenda?

By the way, I happen to live just off of that highway in Bensalem and it seems to me that part of it already has those walls and most of the rest of it is quite far from any highly populated areas. But you see, when it comes to most projects funded by the federal government, any actual "need" is merely coincidental. Greenwood himself admitted that the creation of jobs (votes?) was the real reason behind his extraordinary effort to bring this venture to Bucks County.

This is where the entire issue of "pork-barrel" spending on the part of Congress gets both so interesting and frustrating. No matter how wasteful that appropriation might be absolutely no one is going to complain that their particular congressman was able to get money spent on their district. In fact, voters are far more likely to reward such inefficient behavior and punish the representative who can't/doesn't/won't bring home a report card full of special "achievements." Such thinking has become so ingrained in the way that we evaluate our elected officials that the news media seem incapable of viewing the success or failure of a term of office through any other prism.

But what gets forgotten is that every single one of the 535 members of congress are "forced" to act in exactly the same manner and that, consequently, the budget process becomes a high stakes game of "trick or treat." As a result, federal spending always goes up and taxes are kept at needlessly high rates. It is no wonder that traditionally the average approval rating of an individual member of congress is dramatically higher than the level of appreciation for the body as a whole. Quite simply we have created political and legislative systems that do not work in the best interest of sound spending.

What makes the case of Jim Greenwood particularly noteworthy is that he is listed as a Republican. Allegedly, Republicans get elected by promising not to waste more tax money than is absolutely necessary to get reelected. Greenwood has only a 59% lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, which is 10th highest in his state delegation. As his recent fondness for the taste of pork would indicate, Greenwood is even less conservative when the focus is on economic issues, having voted against conservatives on three major "money" votes last year and failing to vote for three others. One of those votes for which Greenwood didn't even show up was the repeal of the dreaded "death" tax, an issue in which more than a few citizens of Bucks County have at least a passing interest; perhaps even more than in a study of highway trees or the building of a wall on the side of an interstate.

THIS COLUMN APPEARED IN THE BUCKS COUNTY COURIER TIMES, BUT A LINK TO IT COULD NOT BE FOUND.

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