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The Hammer


Ohhhhh. Darn that Glenn Reynolds. That law professor!
He fights dirty! He’s saying that I am siding with Rep. Tom Delay on the pork in the highway bill!
Ha! I am cut to the quick! I may never type again! Tom Delay! Glenn really knows how to hurt a Liberal, doesn’t he?
Actually, Reynolds, being a law professor and all, has found the one thing I didn’t say in this post calling his and N.Z. Bear’s Porkbusters “wrong-headed.”
Of course, I’m not siding with Tom Delay. I’m siding with more citizen involvement in government. Those are two different things. And, I would maintain, that if more folks paid attention to the way lawmakers like Delay behave, that crook – oh, yes, he is – would not have gotten elected in the first place.
As I said, Porkbusters is a worthy attempt to get folks to pay attention to the ways in which legislation is enacted and the different little tricks, asides and sleights of hand that go into crafting spending legislation. I covered Congress. I covered the passage of the Telecommunciations Act of 1996, which could also be called “Christmas for Phone Companies.” And I’m here to tell you that the Telecom Act passed as it did because no one – no real people – cared. Just like the highway bill.

So now folks care. Good. But Porkbusters, while a nice motivation tool, is too easy, as Andrew Sullivan pointed out yesterday. It lets people take the stuff they don’t like or think necessary and ridicule it in the name of better government spending.
That’s why I pointed to the Golden Gate Bridge seismic retrofit as a great example of where this sort of thinking can go. It’s really easy to say, oh, who needs that? Because the service isn’t something you want or think you’ll need. It’s the job of our government to make those decisions as fairly as possible. It’s the job of voters to determine what’s fair. That requires a lot more civic involvement than reading the highway bill and deciding that a seismic retrofit of a bridge you only use occasionally is a waste of your tax dollars.
The problem with Porkbusters is that it makes voters sound like victims; complaining about things that they feel are somehow beyond their control because of all those nasty crafty politicians. That’s just silly. And yes, it is wrong headed.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 10:26 AM | Permalink

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