Friday, October 26, 2007

A Response to a Pro-Porker

The last thing in the world I expected when I posted "Pork vs. Kids?" yesterday was to hear someone come out in defense of pork spending.

Thank you Rodak. Frequently I argue against pork, yet it often seems like a strawman argument, since no one ever argues against me.

Let the debate begin!

Rodak: Those who should be held up for scorn are those who would kill all discretionary spending, across the board, for an indefinite, but surely long, period of time.

Personally, I would kill ALL discretionary spending FOREVER.

Rodak: Senators are elected at the state level, and it is their job to bring home federal money ("pork") that will help to create jobs and generate tax revenues for their home states. Why would any responsible senator vote for a bill that would effectively prevent him from doing his job?
Even the much-riduculed Woodstock Museum would be a good thing for job seekers in upstate New York. Nothing gets reported on in Cleveland without pictures being shown of the Rock and Roll Museum.

Jobs paid for by federal funds are a mirage. They last as long as the funding is there or the project is running. What kind of jobs are we talking about? Construction work? Museum work?

Speaking of museums, what happens if the museum is unprofitable (i.e. not enough people visit it)? Then you either have to support it with public funds, or it closes. That is what is known as a "make work" program.

Think about it: If all we had in this country were government-funded jobs, what would that do to our economy? The government would be paying everyone, and all tax receipts would be coming from government payouts. Moving money from the government's left hand to the right hand does NOTHING to build the economy.

Museums like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are the exception, not the rule. It should also be noted it was funded by the city of Cleveland, not the federal government. Why can't the state of New York fund their own Woodstock museum? Or if it is so important, why can't the "Woodstock generation" fund their own museum?

For that matter, why can't the state of Alaska fund their own "bridge to nowhere"? Alaska has had a budget surplus for years much bigger than the funding they were requesting from the federal government.

The truth is that pork handouts are a spoils system based on seniority. Just keep re-electing the same senator over and over again, and you too can feed at the federal trough. As soon as your senator dies or retires, you're screwed.

Pork is NOT about helping people. It IS about getting senators (and congressmen) re-elected. And you think this is MORE important than children receiving healthcare? Or Social Security funding for that matter, since these wonderful senators have no problem robbing the Social Security "trust fund" in order to pay for these pork projects?

The Baby Boomers will get their Woodstock Museum. They won't be able to visit it on their reduced Social Security payments, and their grandchildren won't get healthcare, but at least their senators will get re-elected.

14 comments:

Rodak said...

"What kind of jobs are we talking about? Construction work? Museum work?"

Construction work initially, sure. But a successful tourist attraction brings customers to local businesses from motels, to restaurants, to other tourist attractions, to drug stores, etc. All of which creates jobs, and generates taxes. Over time, the feds make back their expenditure.
Cleveland is a big city. Woodstock, NY is not. Upstate NY is not doing real well economically, as I understand. And New York City residents are already taxed to the hilt. Federal funding to kick-start the economy in an area that needs kick-starting is worthwhile. And the Woodstock generation, being the largest segment of the mature working population, now making their peak salaries, WOULD BE largely funding it.

EdMcGon said...

IF the Woodstock Museum actually pulls in tourists. Not all museums succeed.

In Dawson County, where I live, they built a NASCAR Museum. NASCAR in Georgia, how can it miss? It did. It went belly-up, and now the city of Dawsonville has a rather unusual-looking City Hall.

BTW, guess who got stuck with the bill for this fiasco? The taxpayers of Dawsonville and Dawson County.

Museums are not the big draw you think they are.

That said, why doesn't the state of New York finance it? Because they know it's likely to fail. So if they get the Feds to fund it, and it fails, they haven't lost any money. You and I will have paid for a worthless museum in a nothing town which no one has any real reason to visit.

Which brings us back to the question: Where are our priorities as a society?

Rodak said...

"IF the Woodstock Museum actually pulls in tourists. Not all museums succeed."

I thought you were pro-business? Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? There don't come any guarantees with investments; you win some, you lose some.

Any project, such as the Woodstock Museum, which is funded with tax money, is going to entail the possibility that the people's tax money will go down the drain. If their elected representatives do that to them more times than they can tolerate, they can vote them out of office. In my opinion, it is better to federally fund this kind of thing, since its purpose would be to provide entertainment for the population, not just the local population. If the money is wasted, each individual's contribution is infinitesimal, if it's federal money.
I'm sure that it won't be just a museum, with a static collection of artifacts and memorabilia. I'm sure that there would be a venue for rock concerts evocative of the Woodstock Era, which would attract large crowds and generate all kinds of spin-off products, such as wall posters and CDs.
As I said, if the region needs *something* to kick-start its economy, trying to use what the region is always famous for to do this, seems like a reasonable investment risk.

Rodak said...

Proof-reading failure alert:

I *meant* to say that the museum would be for the entertainment of the "national" population, not just the local one.

And the last sentence should say "already famous for" not "always famous for"...

EdMcGon said...

Any project, such as the Woodstock Museum, which is funded with tax money, is going to entail the possibility that the people's tax money will go down the drain.

Rodak,
If it's funded privately, only the people who want to put their money at risk will have their money at risk. If it's funded publicly, ALL taxpayers have their money at risk. You call that fair?

If the money is wasted, each individual's contribution is infinitesimal, if it's federal money.

Unfortunately, when you start to add up all these "infinitesimal" contributions, they start to add up to REAL money.

Your problem is you look at all this pork as a "free lunch". YOU are paying for this, whether you think so or not.

I said, if the region needs *something* to kick-start its economy, trying to use what the region is always famous for to do this, seems like a reasonable investment risk.

Then let someone who wants to risk their money invest it there. To ask EVERYONE in the U.S. to invest in it is foolish, if not downright unchristian.

Rodak said...

"Your problem is you look at all this pork as a "free lunch". YOU are paying for this, whether you think so or not."

What I'm saying is what I always say: I'm willing to pay taxes in order to help my fellow Americans with a leg-up.
If private investors are not coming to a region (I happen to live in such a region), then it is the *job* of the region's U.S. Senators to try to bring in federal funds to do so. That's how our system works. If you don't like federalism, you were born about 165 years too late to take part in its attempted overthrow.

EdMcGon said...

What I'm saying is what I always say: I'm willing to pay taxes in order to help my fellow Americans with a leg-up.

And what I'm saying is THAT is the wrong way to help your fellow Americans. Moving money between Americans via the government does NOTHING to create wealth. You're only robbing Peter to pay Paul.

How many times do you have to see a depressed region with a heavy tax burden before you put two and two together? New York state has some of the highest taxes in the country, and yet they can't seem to make their economy work? Wake up and smell the toast burning.

Shifting the tax burden from the local level only serves to put a drag on our entire country's economy.

BTW, you still haven't explained why Alaska is in such bad shape that they need all that federal pork?

The truth is pork isn't handed out on a "need" basis. It is handed out based on the seniority of the legislators, regardless of whether the state needs it or not. It is an arbitrary system that only serves to help the re-election chances of legislators.

If you don't like federalism, you were born about 165 years too late to take part in its attempted overthrow.

It is never too late to fix a broken system.

What amazes me is that you claim it to be a Christian's duty to use government to help the poor, yet this arbitrary system uses money to help those who don't need it. But because it works the right way occasionally, you have no problem with this.

You conveniently ignore the fact that if New Yorkers didn't have to buy "bridges to nowhere" with their federal tax burden, they might be able to keep enough in-state to easily build a hundred Woodstock museums.

Why is it more fair for that money to be channeled through the federal government instead of being kept in the state of New York? Isn't the state of New York in a better position to determine what they need than the federal government is?

Consider this: In 2006, New York received $30.26 per capita in pork spending. The average for the entire country was $30.55.
http://www.cagw.org/site/PageServer?pagename=reports_pigbook2006porkpercap

You want to help "poor" New York? Then quit sucking money out of the state to pay for arbitrary federal pork expenditures.

How about depressed Ohio? They only got $19.76 per capita.

How about Alaska, with a state budget surplus in the billions of dollars? They got $489.87 per capita.

Still want to leave the pork system "as is"?

Rodak said...

Taxes in New York City are through the roof and the result is that it's becoming a habitat and playground for the rich. The key is not hand-outs, but job production. Any pork that doesn't generate jobs is a rip-off; I fully agree with that.
But, as I said, if the voters don't like the results that they are getting from their elected representatives, they have the power to remove them from office.
What the voters don't have power over is the private sector entrepreneurs who cut them adrift by moving their businesses to Mexico and China.

EdMcGon said...

Has it occurred to you WHY companies go to other countries? While payroll is a consideration, taxes are another consideration. When politicians get elected on a "tax big business out the wazoo" platform, big business tends to leave. Why run a business in an area that's going to suck you dry with taxes?

Idiots vote for politicians like that, and then wonder why their jobs are going overseas or to other states.

Any pork that doesn't generate jobs is a rip-off; I fully agree with that.

The problem is: Does the pork generate long term private sector jobs, or just short term private sector jobs (i.e. construction work)? If it creates a "government job", or a job that will have to be financed by the government, then you've accomplished nothing with it.

Take your Woodstock Museum for example. If it fails (considering where it will be, there is a strong possibility it will fail), we've put a lot of tax dollars into it and gotten nothing. If we subsidize it, that will mean more tax dollars propping up a failed venture. More money taken away from working people with nothing gained.

If the Woodstock Museum were a great idea, why wouldn't the private sector finance it and build it? The fact they're getting money from the government tells me something right away: At the very least, it is a VERY risky idea.

William R. Barker said...

http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071024/NEWS/710240350

Hmm... motivations...

"[Billionaire Alan] Gerry said on CNBC's "Squawk Box" program Friday that the loss of that money won't affect the museum, scheduled to open in May. It is located at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, on the original 1969 concert site. Gerry, a registered Republican, gave $20,000 to the Schumer-led Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the maximum allowed of $9,200 to Clinton's primary and general election fund. These donations came days after the appropriations committee passed the health spending bill on June 21 with the Woodstock earmark. The Gerry family has given $150,000 to Schumer's Senatorial Campaign Committee since 2005. Gerry said the timing was coincidental, that he made the contributions because the senators "showed a real strong interest in what's going on in Sullivan County."

Yep. "Coincidence." I'm sure.

BILL

William R. Barker said...

Catching up on a stack of as yet unread WSJs, came across an interesting article, "Inside College Sports' Biggest Money Machine," that also paints a thought provoking and frankly disheartening backdrop for where Rob is coming from - at least in part - economically:

"Here in Columbus, the OSU athletic department is a gold-plated island in a region getting roiled by harsh economic forces.....OSU's athletic budget, which has grown 46% in five years, has expanded despite a prolonged downturn in the Ohio economy and several rounds of public-funding cuts to higher education. The state's median household income fell 9.3% between 2000 and 2005, one of the worst declines for any state during that span."

"Ohio has the nation's highest rates for foreclosures and delinquent mortgages, and during the second quarter of 2007, 22.9% of Ohio homeowners with subprime loans were over 90 days late -- almost twice the national average, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association in Washington, D.C. The state is home to two of the five poorest cities in America -- Cleveland and Cincinnati, both of which had more than 25% of residents living below the poverty line in 2006, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Ohio has been ravaged by the struggling U.S. auto industry and the forces of globalization. From 2000 to 2006, the state lost about 200,000 manufacturing jobs and added just 40,000 new positions to offset the decline. Companies such as Mr. Coffee, Rubbermaid and Hoover closed plants and shifted production abroad."

Anyway... it's an interesting article. Not sure if it's subscriber only, but you guys can try to find it either on the WSJ's website or perhaps elsewhere on the web. The author is Jon Weinbach.

BILL

EdMcGon said...

Bill, good points. Yet, Rodak still wants to defend the pork barrel practice, even though his own home state gets less of the pork money per capita than the average in this country?

I guess economic results in his own home state are less important as long as the government is building his beloved Woodstock Museum. :P

William R. Barker said...

Originally, our Federalist system was intended to create a balance between States rights and the Federal Government. Prior to the Civil War, and even after in much of the nation, Americans self-identified as CITIZENS OF THEIR HOME STATES first and American citizens second. As we know... the Civil War conclusively put an end to "State's Rights" as once envisioned. (*SHRUG*)

The reason the Founders created a separate House and Senate was to account for State's Rights based on POPULATION (the House) as well as equal representation (the Senate) based upon each State being an "equal" (i.e. size doesn't matter) member of the Union.

Anyway... again, history aside since I'm sure I'm not telling either of you anything you don't already know... even though we're now DEFINITELY a nation first and foremost, not simply a "union" of separate States, the infrastructure of House and Senate remains.

Most Congressmen and Senators will always consider it their duty to bring as much pork to their districts/States as humanly possible. Thus... the less pork there is... the better we all are as a nation since this pork is provided by taxing ALL OF US. Less pork... less spending... at least in theory less need for oppressive taxation at the federal level.

Any way you cut it, the system is disfunctional. No doubt you both recognize the reality that some States get MORE money back from the federal trough then their citizens pay in in federal taxes. Good deal for the citizens of SOME States... bad deal for the citizens of other States.

Now, as if that weren't bad enough... think of this: Even if we could somehow "equalize" the amount of money each State received from the Federal Gov't in order to make it "fair," what would be the POINT?!?! It costs money to create and upkeep the infranstructure of a "middleman." Why send your "fair share" to Washington even if you get your "fair share back," minus "handling costs?!?!" Doesn't it make more sense for as much "State" money as possible to be kept in State in the first place...???

BILL

EdMcGon said...

Bill,
Amen brother! :)