Monday, August 01, 2005

Congressional Spending

"Democrat Jim Clyburn retained another $25 million for his famous 'Bridge to Nowhere,' a project in rural South Carolina that has already sucked up $34 million in federal funds. The California delegation secured $1.4 billion for more than 479 projects, including $2.5 million for freeway landscaping. And ranking Transportation Committee Democrat James Oberstar snatched more than $14 million for Duluth, Minnesota, including $3.2 million for an extension of the longest paved recreational path in the nation.

Next to this highway extravagance, the energy bill seems almost a bargain at an estimated $66 billion or so. Minor highlights here include the repeal of a Depression-era law (Puhca) that will open up electricity sector investment; new reliability standards for the national power grid; more federal authority to settle siting disputes over much-needed natural gas terminals; and an inventory of offshore oil and gas resources that may someday encourage more exploration.

We can also say this for the bill: It doesn't pick energy winners or losers. Everyone who produces so much as a kilowatt hour is a winner in this subsidy-fest of tax credits and new federal mandates. There's $550 million for forest biomass, $100 million for hydroelectric production, and $1.8 billion for 'clean coal.' There are subsidies for wind, solar, nuclear and (despite $60 oil) even for oil and gas.

Most egregious is the gigantic transfer of wealth from car drivers to Midwest corn farmers (and Archer-Daniels-Midland) via a new 7.5-billion-gallon-a-year ethanol mandate, which will raise gas prices by as much as a dime a gallon on the East and West coasts. Oh, and don't forget the $15 billion (a 155% increase) in federal home heating subsidies, $100 million for 'fuel cell' school buses, and $6 million for a government program to encourage people to ride their bikes--presumably along Mr. Oberstar's newly paved trail."

Where, oh where, is our Constitution? Can anyone except a member of Congress, and perhaps a Justice of the United States Supreme Court, find in Article 1, Section 8 the expressed powers for Congress to: build recreational paths, subsidies for biomass, production of hydroelectricity, subsidies for solar, mandates for ethanol use, purchase of school buses, or government bike-riding programs?

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