Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hyman Complains About Pork, But Where's the Beef?

Mark Hyman often grumbles about government “pork,” but he never takes on the topic in any substantive way.

A case in point is
his recent return to the topic of a specific airplane, the C-130J Hercules. Complaining that although even though senior military leaders don’t want the plane, acquisition officials, members of Congress, and defense contractors have continued to push for funding, Hyman says that this is “a classic example of pork.”

Perhaps, but Hyman is not even nibbling around the edges when it comes to government waste. Cutting the program off would save the government
a mere $5 billion over the next five years. Compare that to the $419 billion Defense Department budget request for 2006, or the nearly $300 billion the invasion of Iraq has cost, and you understand that Hyman’s objections are largely symbolic.

In fact, cutting out all the “pork” in the budget, however widely defined, would have minimal effects on the country’s bottom line.

Hyman, and other conservatives, like to play at fiscal responsibility by publicly complaining about budgetary pork, while they still favor boondoggles like subsidies for the super rich in the form of regressive tax cuts, wasteful defense spending like the vaunted “Star Wars” missile defense system, and counterproductive adventuring like the invasion of Iraq.

Cutting programs that aren’t necessary is fine, as is pointing out when government spending is steered by the political pull of particular elected officials rather than common sense and the common good. But the ironic thing is that throwing money at the C-130J project probably will do more to provide jobs and stimulate the local economies of the places it’s built than the tax cuts we were promised would “set the economy on fire.”

That by itself is not a good reason to continue the program, but let’s not kid ourselves that shaming politicians into dropping their pet projects is going to do anything to control runaway spending. That will require much more common sense, fiscal responsibility, and political fortitude than Hyman, Bush, or the Republican Congress have.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 2.56


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