Ryan Alexander, guest commentator in today's
NWA Times, bemoans the fact that
the Highway Trust Fund (HTF ) will be in the red by as much as $ 4. 3 billion by the end of fiscal year 2009, even before the current transportation bill has expired.
He goes on to chide Congress for making the problem worse by adding thousands of earmarks to the final bill.
And while it’s not up to the appropriations committee to propose or pass legislative fixes (in fact, they are forbidden from doing so ), its deep concern for the state of the HTF was apparently not enough to stop them from allowing 1, 400 congressional and administrative earmarks worth more than $ 2. 2 billion in its bill. The Senate will surely want its share of the pork as well, and taken together you can start to understand how big a problem this is.
Ryan accuses Congress of lacking a sense of priorities. Our highways and bridges are deteriorating and Congress is more interested in funding their unimportant pet projects. Some congressman have been saying that in order to resolve the funding problems we need to raise the federal gas tax or give less money to the states. Yeah, that's going over like a lead balloon.
However, we really don't need to do that. Lawrence Kudlow
has dug up some Government spending figures on New Orleans.
Here's a pop quiz: How much money has Uncle Sam spent on New Orleans and the Gulf region since Hurricane Katrina ripped the place apart? I'll give you the answer because you'll never guess it. The grand total is $127 billion (including tax relief).
Just how ludicrous is this? Well, the Gross Domestic Product of Louisiana is $141 billion. We've dropped all this money into New Orleans and it's still not fixed. Where was all this money spent?
Well, the White House fact sheet says $24 billion has been used to build houses and schools, repair damaged infrastructure and provide victims with a place to live. The fact sheet goes on to say that $7.1 billion went to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild the levees; that the U.S. Department of Education spent $2 billion on local schools; and that the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries has awarded more than $2.5 million (the pikers). The administration also provided $16.7 billion as part of the largest housing-recovery program in U.S. history.
Now, if you do the math, there is $74.7 billion that's unaccounted for. This is an extraordinary amount of money that has been wasted. The money should have been used for things as important as the safety and drivability of our highways. We will probably never know where all that money sent to New Orleans ended up. Before Congress starts yelling tax increases or funding cuts they need to start looking into the extraordinary amount of money that they are wasting.
Remember President Reagan's line during the 1980 campaign about how LBJ fought a big-government spending war against poverty, and poverty won? Well think of all this Katrina spending as the Great Society Redux. And it failed. I suppose the current Bush administration would like to label this "compassionate conservatism." But guess what? That failed, too.
Too many people hauling up to the trough to eat pork.