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More bridges to nowhere

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Original Publication: PhillyBurbs.com, January 22, 2013
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January 22, 2013

It’s deja vu all over again. Remember the “bridge to nowhere”? That was the proposed span from Ketchikan Alaska to Gravina Island — population: 50 — which several years ago was nearly awarded some $400 million in federal funds.

But for public outrage over the potential waste of money, the bridge would have been built — compliments of taxpayers.

Well, here we go again.

As documented in our Sunday story, “Billions in Sandy aid could go elsewhere,” federal lawmakers are again finding ways to spend money the government doesn’t have. It’s one thing to print money for the relief of disaster victims — people who truly suffered devastating losses. It’s another to designate those funds to people, places and things so remotely related to the havoc Hurricane Sandy caused that one has to engage in some very creative thinking to make the connection.

For example, among the targets for relief approved by the House of Representatives is the ancestral estate of Gifford Pinchot, first chief of the U.S. Forest Service and former Pennsylvania governor. The national historic site in Milford, Pa., lost a chimney cap and about 100 trees in the storm. It also sustained other “minor damage,” according to the Forest Service. And so the estate will receive some of the $4.4 million earmarked for national parks in New Hampshire and West Virginia. In total, the House approved $50 billion for storm relief.

Likewise, the U.S. Senate has proposed $60 billion in storm aid. What the combined package will add up to after lawmakers from both houses hammer out a final package is anybody’s guess. What we don’t have to guess at is that the final number will be huge — and most if not all of the money borrowed.

We don’t begrudge help for those in the throes of disaster-related financial ruin. What we do begrudge are the add-ons; the stuff lawmakers threw in to win favor, pay off favors, or shed favor on pet interests. How else do you explain over $1 million for the National Cemetery Administration, $10 million for FBI salaries, $135 million for new weather forecasting equipment, $50 million to plant trees, $3 million for “oil spill research” or $2 billion for road projects nationwide. We could go on, but you get the point.

In reality, Sandy didn’t do damage nationwide. It struck the East Coast, primarily New Jersey and New York where combined more than $71 billion in damage occurred. Yet storm money could flow across the nation — money we don’t have.

“A lot of this money is going to go to things that aren’t Sandy-related, and it’s going to be up to the vigilance of the public to stop them,” says Steve Ellis, of the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. Good advice.

Here’s some advice for members of Congress: Take a scalpel to the bloated disaster measures you’ve created. Help those in need, but also those paying the bills.

Cut out the fat!

Original Publication URL: http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/local/courier_times_news/opinion/editorials/more-bridges-to-nowhere/article_744a71a6-46c5-5eb1-b582-299235a770f5.html

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