To listen to the Tea Party, you'd think government existed solely to do bad things to individual liberties, that it is incapable of doing anything good, and that the best government is no government. Right? Not so much.
Via Huffington Post:
WASHINGTON -- For years, Tennessee lawmakers have advocated for the construction of a major port on the northwest corner of the state on the Mississippi River. Known as the Port of Cates Landing, the project would include a 9,000-foot slack-water harbor, an adjacent 350-acre industrial park, improvements to local roads to connect it to U.S. Highway 78, and a short-line railroad to a larger rail line 28 miles away. It would, by some estimates, create thousands of jobs -- a much-needed boon for the Lake County region, 37.8 percent of whose residents live below the poverty line.
It also would cost a fair amount of cash. By the spring of 2011, more than $33 million had been invested in the project; an additional $20 million -- $13 million from the federal government, $7 million from the state of Tennessee -- was on its way. But as Congress, in an effort to avert a shutdown, began looking for federal expenditures to shave off the budget, Cates Landing's future suddenly became unclear. It was, among other transportation projects, on the chopping block.
Infrastructure! Yay, infrastructure! But wait. That district is represented by Republican freshman Stephen Fincher, a 'small government' Tea Party Republican. Bummer. No pork for the Tea Party, right? But wait.
On March 8, 2011, Gannett news service reported that the funding for Cates Landing was being targeted by lawmakers looking to slash the federal budget. The same day that report came out, Fincher spoke directly with Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about the funds. The next day, he wrote a follow-up letter seeking assistance in "obligating" the $13 million grant for the port.
And behold, it worked. The grant was approved on March 18th. And then what did Fincher do?
Two days after writing LaHood, Fincher voted for the a Republican House budget that cut billions of dollars, including from many other transportation priorities. His office put out a press release scolding "out of control" and "reckless" federal spending.
As lawmakers prepare to cut trillions of dollars from the budget as a condition to raising the nation's debt ceiling, the story of the Cates Landing project underscores the dilemma that faces many members of the Republican-run House and the freshmen class in particular. Federal spending is derided as nothing short of a threat to the country's future -- unless, of course, it happens to be directed at that congressman's home district.
Gosh, we used to call that pork until the TeaPublicans decided pork was a bad thing and removed it -- and earmarks -- from consideration.
Fincher isn't the only one. The Huffington Post article mentions Bill Johnson (R-OH), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Joe Walsh (R-IL), Stephen Palazzo (R-MS), and Allen West (R-FL), among others.
Here's the thing. Infrastructure spending is one of the things government should be doing more of, not less. So I have no quibble with these Representatives acting in the best interests of their districts and requesting funds for legitimate projects which create jobs and make their districts a better place to live. More power to them. But please, don't do that and turn around and start posturing about government spending and how the President is an addict to it while thumping your chest about being a small government Tea Party type.
At least, don't do that and expect it to go unnoticed. It's funny to watch the Tea Party hacks spin it, though I wouldn't really count Mark Meckler as a legitimate spokesman for TeaPublicans in general:
"Obviously there is going to be infrastructure spending, and one of the jobs of a Representative is to represent their district," said Mark Meckler, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots. "I would say that we should be paying close attention to this process of petitioning federal agencies [for money] … But I don't think anybody is saying that when the federal government is spending money, that no congressman should try to fund projects his district needs. I think what they are saying is we don't want egregious, crazy, pork barrel spending."
What is egregious, crazy, pork barrel spending, exactly? Where I live, the Recovery Act funds are being used to widen the 101 freeway, something that's been desperately needed for years. Farther south, the 405 freeway (a black traffic hole if ever one existed) is being widened and bridges retrofitted for earthquakes. Is that egregious, crazy, pork barrel spending? Or is it only egregious when it funds a project in a Democrat's district?
Here's what is undeniable. Whether they like it or not, TeaPublicans are, through their actions, endorsing what many of us already know: Government can do good things.