Sen. Grassley Tells All!

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No, not about the sex-blog scandal currently infesting the office of Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) like so many cicadas.

Occastional Reason contributor John Berlau has a sharp piece in Reader's Digest about "the stupid ways states waste money." A snippet:

It's a vision right out of the movie Field of Dreams. Build it, and they will come. But this time, it's no ballpark they're creating in the Iowa heartland; it's an indoor rain forest. "We don't have a Gateway Arch like St. Louis or a Space Needle like Seattle," says David Oman, chief administrator of the Iowa Environmental/Education Project. "Those are special things [that] put those locations on the map." Sound ridiculous to construct a rain forest in the middle of prairie country? It gets funnier: You're paying for a good part of it, to the tune of $50 million.

Best part is that Berlau gets Sen. Charles Grassley, ostensibly a fiscally conservative guy, to confess thus:

Grassley has conceded that $50 million for the Iowa rain-forest project is "not a spit in the ocean." But he added, "if this money wasn't spent in Iowa, would it be spent in West Virginia or Alaska because they have powerful Senators on the Appropriations Committee? I'm kind of embarrassed [when] I end up helping other states, but I don't help my own state."

Whole thing here.

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  1. As a compromise, the politicians can smear their names all over a new Elm Street Overpass, the Grassley Transit Hub, or the Harkin Police Substation. Those projects would likely become overbuilt and wasteful, but at least it is waste that people would use.

    Wouldn’t it be bizarre if a congressperson lobbied for his State’s appropriation to be used to offset part of the public debt?

  2. corn -> fuel is not nearly as efficient as hemp -> fuel. If midwestern Congressmen had any sack, they’d drop the ethanol shtick and work to reverse the industrial hemp ban. But then, they wouldn’t benefit their donors, who are already getting subsidies for their corn.

  3. Joe-

    If you read another thread you’ll see the other reason why politicians won’t support using hemp to make fuel: The clout of the prison guard union. Any liberalization of drug laws might lead to fewer inmates.

  4. Pork for Iowa of a hilarious editorial I read a few years back in the local paper.

    CA sends more to DC in taxes than it gets back in federal spending. The writer posed a scenario where Democrats in Sacramento decide to secede from the Union. The amount Californians pay in federal taxes, if directed back to Sacramento rather than DC, would (according to the writer) enable CA to balance the budget, provide for its defense, and still enjoy a tax cut.

    In this fictional scenario the Republicans in DC agree to CA secession because it would mean (1) eliminating 55 electoral votes currently guaranteed to the Democrats, (2) remove a House delegation that tilts Democrat by approximately 5-3, and (3) remove 2 liberal Senators from a closely divided Senate.

    Hey, crazier things have happened.

  5. CORRECTION

    The first sentence should be:

    Pork for Iowa reminds me of a hilarious editorial…

  6. “Occastional Reason contributor John Berlau…”

    Must be a fiend.

    “Those are special things [that] put those locations on the map.”

    Must be an idiot.

  7. Some red meat, eh? Good for you, RHR. I half-expected three paragraphs of whining about how Ms. Aloha got booted off of American Idol last night.

  8. Grassley says “if the 50 mil wasn’t spent on the Iowa rainforest, it might be spent in W.Va or Alaska”

    WTF? Isn’t there a budget deficit?

    If these SOBs don’t spend it, it wouldn’t have to be borrowed.

  9. Cities don’t get “on the map” because of projects like this. New York was not a cow pasture that grew up around the Empire State Building and Broadway.

    Quite the opposite, neat projects are built in cities because those cities are on the map already – as places that business and residents are attracted to.

    Fix the streets, adequately fund the police, address the quality of life/access/whatever issues that your residents and local businesses complain about. But then, no politicians get to put their name on the new layer of pavement on Elm Street.

  10. I live in Des Moines, and am a lifelong Iowan, but Grassley is not my favorite Senator, neither is Tom Harkin. But in Chuck’s defense, he has a point:

    All in all, Iowa gets less pork from the Feds than practically any other state. We are dead last in Medicaid reimbursement, for example. We generally ask for very little, and produce a huge chunk of the country’s food and feed grain, REAL pork – the kind you grill, that is – and we are, unbeknownst to most of you, home to many of the top health and life ins., and financial services institutions including as Allied/Nationwide, Principal Financial Group, EMC (formerly The Traveller’s), etc. Maytag and Amana appliances are Iowa companies, as are many other national brands and product lines. We are huge net producers here, in short.

    This is not to say that the rainforest attraction isn’t a stupid idea – I think it is – or that a $50 million dollar boondoggle is appropriate – I think it isn’t. But I don’t think this particular chunk of political white meat rises to the level of Reason’s indignation as over against every other stupid Federal expenditure.

  11. Don’t forget ethanol.

  12. Three words:

    Line Item Veto.

  13. B.P. – (I assume that doesn’t stand for British Petroleum.) Thanks for mentioning ethanol.

    Actually, a few months ago, I’d like to have forgotten ethanol, as it has simply not been cost effective without tax incentives, which some misname “subsidies.” (To refrain from taxing something is not ‘subsidizing” it.) But with the price of gasoline rising as fast or faster than that of crude oil, it is high time to look at domestic alternatives such as ethanol. Sticking it directly in your gas tank may not be a long term solution, but I understand it could be a very cost-effective and clean source of hydrogen for fuel cells and hydrogen combustion engines as the technology improves.

    Either way, Iowa is and will be in the forefront of that market, and will soon be a leader in wind-turbine electricity production as well. All in all, I’m not going to feel too guilty about the Feds throwing us a measly $50 mil. for a glorified theme park.

  14. B.P. – (I assume that doesn’t stand for British Petroleum.) Thanks for mentioning ethanol.

    Actually, a few months ago, I’d like to have forgotten ethanol, as it has simply not been cost effective without tax incentives, which some misname “subsidies.” (To refrain from taxing something is not ‘subsidizing” it.) But with the price of gasoline rising as fast or faster than that of crude oil, it is high time to look at domestic alternatives such as ethanol. Sticking it directly in your gas tank may not be a long term solution, but I understand it could be a very cost-effective and clean source of hydrogen for fuel cells and hydrogen combustion engines as the technology improves.

    Either way, Iowa is and will be in the forefront of that market, and will soon be a leader in wind-turbine electricity production as well. All in all, I’m not going to feel too guilty about the Feds throwing us a measly $50 mil. for a glorified theme park.

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