October 22, 2005

“Waste Ted” Stevens Threatens to Resign. He Should.

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:09 am

Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska is hereby christened “Waste Ted.”

“Waste Ted” has been senator for 37 years, is a walking advertisement for term limits, and apparently has come to believe that the government is a bottomless ATM machine.

Exhibit A: From The Washington Times (HT Porkopolis; bolds are mine):

Stevens wins Senate fight for Alaska’s $230 million bridge

The president pro tem of the Senate got his $230 million bridge, but only after he threatened to quit if he didn’t.
Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, the chamber’s senior Republican, became furious when Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, offered an amendment yesterday that would have forbidden building the bridge and sent some of the money to rebuild the Interstate 10 bridge across Lake Pontchartrain, which was damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
“If the Senate decides to discriminate against our state, to take money only from our state, I will resign from this body,” Mr. Stevens said. “If one senator can decide he’ll take all the money from one state to solve a problem of another, that is not a union. That is not equality.”
He was defending a bridge from Ketchikan, Alaska, with a population slightly less than 15,000, to Gravina Island, with a population counted in the dozens.
Critics have dubbed it the “bridge to nowhere,” but Alaska’s congressional delegation said the bridge is the only way for the region to see economic growth because it would connect the only parts of the area that are still in private hands and can be developed.
Mr. Coburn wanted to shift $125 million from the bridge to the Lake Pontchartrain spans, and then send the rest of the money back to Alaska for other projects, as long as they don’t go to pay for the bridge.
His amendment failed on an 82-15 vote, with 11 Republicans and four Democrats voting in favor.
Mr. Coburn, who has assumed the mantle of chief taxpayer watchdog in the Senate, said the bridge doesn’t make sense.
“So you can get perspective on this, $230 million for 50 people, where there’s a ferry service already running every 15-30 minutes that takes seven minutes to cross, is enough money to buy each one of them a Learjet,” he said. “A bridge longer than the Golden Gate for 50 people to a small area in Alaska is enough money to buy every one of the inhabitants their own — hundreds of speedboats, to cross any time they wanted.”

This is no isolated incident. “Waste Ted” Stevens can’t spend our money fast enough.

Exhibit BTV converter-box subsidies for old-technology sets that either won’t exist or won’t need them when the time comes (HT Truth Laid Bear):

US Sen. Stevens proposes $3 bln digital TV aid

WASHINGTON, Oct 19 (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens said on Wednesday he plans to propose a $3 billion subsidy program to ensure older television sets still work when the transition to better quality, digital broadcasts is completed.

Stevens, an Alaska Republican, said the estimated cost of a box to convert the new digital signals back to analog so existing television sets continue to work is $50 each and he proposed the government subsidize $40 of that amount.

….. Stevens has proposed legislation requiring television broadcasters to end analog broadcasts and only air digital by April 7, 2009. His committee plans to vote on setting the deadline and the subsidy amount on Thursday afternoon.

This outrageous subsidy assumes that all 75 million sets that rely solely on broadcast (i.e., are not hooked up to cable or satellite service) will still exist in 3-1/2 years when the cutover occurs. That’s bad enough, but it also assumes that these set owners will want to convert every single one of them, even though only 21 million homes (vs. sets in homes) have no access to cable or satellite! Give me break–Many of the 75 million sets are in homes where other sets ARE hooked up to cable or satellite. Who believes that their owners will want to upgrade every non-compatible set? To get to 75 million sets, they’re going to have to search through attics for sets that haven’t been plugged for 10 years. (stats on sets and homes are at the Reuters link–Ed.)

Absurdity aside, this looks suspiciously like a slush fund to me. Stevens must know that most of the money won’t be spent, and can be moved around to other things (i.e., more pork) at a later time.

Exhbit C: “Waste Ted” is the Chairman of The Senate Appropriations Committee. He has an overall rating of 56% from The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), but when it comes to pork-barrel spending, he may have no peer, especially on the basis of pork per constituent.

In fiscal 2005, CAGW reports that pork traceable to “Waste Ted” amounted to over $610 million (almost $1,000 for every man, woman, and child in the state). The spending, taken from CAGW’s painstakingly and painfully detailed information, is listed at the end of this post.

If “Waste Ted” could get all this spending through with nary a peep, why would he not think that he could slide the Bridge to Nowhere past the taxpayers? And why should anyone be surprised at his childish temper tantrum after years of getting away with these stunts?

The threat to resign in Exhibit A (which relates to fiscal 2006 spending) is the last straw. “Waste Ted” has told us that his pork is SOOOO important that he would resign if he didn’t get it, even at the expense of an area devastated by a hurricane. That threat proves that he is hopelessly out of touch, has spent way too much time in Washington, and is unfit to continue in office (in my opinion, the other 81 senators who voted down the Coburn amendment are also not too far from being on the wrong side of the fitness line).

“Waste Ted” should resign. Since he won’t, and since Alaska voters probably won’t attempt to recall him, someone in Alaska who is more concerned about our government’s impending fiscal crackup than building Bridges to Nowhere needs to take “Waste Ted” out in 2008, or make it so clear that he or she will beat him that he decides not to run again.

I wouldn’t mind one “tiny” item of pork: one of those Lear Jets Coburn mentioned. Give it to “Waste Ted,” send him on a one-way trip back to Alaska, and tell him he can keep it if he resigns and doesn’t come back. I’d even throw in one of the speedboats Coburn talked about. US taxpayers would save hundreds of millions each year on that deal.
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In fiscal 2005, The Citizens Against Government Waste reports that pork traceable to “Waste Ted” Stevens included:
- Agriculture — $37,402,000, including: $26,000,000 (4.9 percent of the pork for the entire bill) for Alaska villages through the Rural Community Advancement Program; $1,790,000 for berry research; $1,108,000 for alternative salmon products; $358,000 for seed research; $284,000 for ethnobotany research; $167,000 for salmon quality standards; and $160,000 for seafood waste research in Fairbanks.
- Commerce, Justice, State, and the Judiciary — $60,977,000, including: $18,700,000 for Alaska Seals and Stellar Sea Lions; $2,000,000 for training village public safety officers; $1,100,000 for alcohol interdiction for bootlegging crimes; $1,000,000 for mobile computers for Wasilla police cars; $265,000 for a training academy driver simulator; and $150,000 for the Aleut Marine Mammal Commission.
- Defense — $175,775,000, including: $27,200,000 for Alaska Land Mobile Radio; $22,000,000 for Allen Army Airfield upgrades; $7,375,000 for the Port of Anchorage Intermodal Marine Facility Project; $5,500,000 for the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) (Initially designed to capture energy from the aurora borealis [northern lights], HAARP is now being configured to heat up the ionosphere to improve military communications. In 1997, University of Alaska’s Geophysical Institute professor Syun-Ichi Akasofu stated that “To do what [has been talked] about, we would have to flatten the entire state of Alaska and put up millions of antennas, and even then, I am not sure it would work.” Not surprisingly, HAARP is also heating up the ire of many taxpayers. Since 1995, CAGW has identified $100.9 million appropriated for HAARP); $3,400,000 for Adak airport operations improvement; and $1,000,000 to restore Woody Island and historic structures. According to Alaska’s Department of Commerce website, Woody Island has an official population of “0″ and is only occupied on a seasonal basis.
- Energy and Water — $33,173,000 added in conference: $31,148,000 for 49 Army Corps of Engineers construction, and operation and maintenance projects for Alaska’s waterways (which represents 94 percent of the total Energy and Water Alaska pork); $1,500,000 for the Alaska Wind Energy Project; $325,000 for the Pacific Northwest Bi-National Regional Energy Planning Initiative; and $200,000 for the Alaska Wood Biomass Project in Ketchikan. The Sealaska Corporation oversees this wood-to-ethanol project, and built a $43 million facility to attempt to turn Alaska’s southeast old-growth (Tongass) timber and timber scraps into ethanol for use as a gasoline additive. The project has been in existence for many years and has yet to produce any significant results.
- Interior — $90,975,000, including: $11,000,000 for sales preparation, maintenance, and pre-commercial thinning of the Tongass National Forest; $9,500,000 for Alaska conveyance (which has received $29,300,000 since fiscal 2000); $7,420,000 to replace the Eielson Visitor Center at Denali National Park; $3,242,000 for the Base Volcano Monitoring Program in Shemya; $900,000 for the Marine Mineral Technology Center; $790,000 for the Bering Sea Fisherman’s Association; $739,000 to build a historical resource support center to protect the museum collection at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park; $392,000 for Alaska legal services; $150,000 for the Alaska Whaling Commission; and $98,000 for the Alaska Sea Otter Commission.
- Labor/HHS — $66,335,000, including: $34,500,000 for the Denali Commission ($10,000,000 for a psychiatric treatment facility in Bethel; $10,000,000 for residential and supportive housing for elders; $7,000,000 for job training; $5,000,000 to upgrade and construct shelters; and $2,500,000 for medical and dental equipment for rural clinics); $2,000,000 for the Fairbanks North Star Borough to relocate the district’s kitchen facilities; and $100,000 for the Southeast Island School District to develop two-way interactive video conferencing to provide special education services at nine isolated school sites.
- Transportation, Treasury, General Government — $134,425,000, including: $25,000,000 to rehabilitate the Alaska Railroad (this project has received $162,000,000 since fiscal 1996); $4,900,000 for wind/weather research in Juneau; $2,000,000 for recreational improvements to the Seward highway; $1,500,000 for a transit intermodal depot at the Anchorage Museum; $1,000,000 for Emmonak street lighting; and $250,000 for the University of Alaska for the 50th anniversary celebration of Alaska’s statehood. According to a December 2004 Sun Star article, Sen. Stevens asked for $1.3 million for the January 2009 celebration, but he had to settle for one-fifth of his request — for now.
- VA/HUD — $20,440,000, including: $3,000,000 for the University of Alaska for weather and ocean research; $1,300,000 for the Denali Commission for economic development in remote native and rural villages; $900,000 for Ketchikan for costs associated with the construction of the Tongass Coast Aquarium; $525,000 for the Bering Straits Native Corporation in Nome for the Cape Nome Quarry upgrade; $500,000 for the Kincaid Park Training Center in Anchorage for costs associated with construction; $375,000 for regional haze monitoring; $350,000 for the Community Association of Hyder for costs associated with the construction of a high speed water plant; $150,000 for the Alaska Botanical Garden in Anchorage for expansions and renovations; and $150,000 for Friends of EagleRiver Nature Center, Inc. for costs associated with the construction of a community visitors center.

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UPDATE: From Atlas Blogged: “GOP Fat on Pork”–“Not that we wish Senator Stevens ill will, but we would welcome the resignation of any senator who lacks the guts and/or common sense to stop the federal pork-barrel spending that continues to expand, year after year, despite the fact that voters thought they had filled both houses of our federal legislature with members of a “smaller government” party.” That sounds like an order for 82 sets of moving vans.

UPDATE 2: From a Washington Times October 23 editorial:

What’s most impressive about Mr. Stevens’s tantrum is his ability to summon up this degree of righteous indignation — self-righteous might be more apt — over the alleged mistreatment of a state that benefits enormously, and disproportionately, from federal spending.

….. Of the $24 billion in earmarked projects in the most recent transportation bill, nearly $1 billion went to Alaska, putting the nation’s 47th most populous state just behind California and Illinois. The measure provided $1,597 in earmarked funding for every man, woman and child in the state.

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Oct. 22 Wizbang Weekend Carnival participant.

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