What's $286 Billion Among Friends?:
The Washington Post has a very good analysis of the politics of the new transportation bill:
Three years ago, President Bush went to war against congressional pork. His official 2003 budget even featured a color photo of a wind-powered ice sled — an example of the pet projects and alleged boondoggles he said he would no longer tolerate.Six thousand, three hundred, and seventy one pet projects. Wow. My favorite part is the defense of the bill offered by White House spokesman Trent Duffy. In response to criticisms from conservative groups that the bill cost too much,
Yesterday, Bush effectively signed a cease-fire — critics called it more like a surrender — in his war on pork. He signed into law a $286 billion transportation measure that contains a record 6,371 pet projects inserted by members of Congress from both parties.
Duffy replied that Bush pressured Congress to shave billions of dollars off the bill, and he said spending is "pretty modest" when spread out over five years. The transportation bill, at $57 billion a year, is a fraction of Medicare's $265 billion.I'm sure that some amount of highway spending was needed, and I don't know enough about the topic to know what the "right" amount of spending was. It's easy to complain about pork in the abstract. Still, when $286 billion dollars in new spending is described as "pretty modest" because if you spread out the costs over five years the annual costs are less than Medicare, it's hard not to wonder what is going on.
Besides, Duffy said, "the president has to work with the Congress."