Prison Pete

Thursday, August 25, 2005
  Pet Projects.
When you read your news on-line, or by searching via Google for your favorite subjects you eliminate the possibility of forming a relationship between two different stories. I am of the opinion that there is yet to be a computer system designed that can think the way our human brains are truly capable of, provided we actually are willing to engage our brains fully.

I came across two different stories while I was reading the July 30, 2005 New York Times. On page A13, is a story that carries the headline:

"Lawmaker's Pet Projects (and Not Just Roads) Find Home in Transportation Bill"

It is my understanding that the bill is passed once every six years and is not really part of the normal federal budgeting process. It allows the distribution of federal fuel taxes. The total bill covers $286.4 billion. Of that amount all but $24 billion is allocated back to the states based on a specific formula.

The $24 billion is 'earmarked' for special projects over and above the money each state gets based on the formula. Some of the projects are of questionable value, and the amounts a particular senator or representative can get are based on his or her 'political' clout. The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, a Republican, Mr. Don Young, Alaska's only representative, managed to get $1 billion of the $24 billion allocated for specific projects in Alaska.

According to the Times: "About one-fourth of that money [the $1 billion] will be spent to build one of the biggest bridges in the United States, a mile-long, 200 foot high span that will connect Ketchikan, a town with fewer than 8,000 people, to an island that has 50 residents and a small airport."

My math says that works out to $5 million dollars per resident of this little island. I wonder what the toll would be. Of course they are going to pay back the money.

There are lots of other projects, and while Mr. Young certainly has received the lion's share, according the article each and every congressional district received an average $16 million. Perhaps you should write a note to your representative and see what projects he or she was able to get for your area.

According to the article Mr. Young managed to leave Washington before being questioned by the press. When he was asked last year about why so much money was ending up in Alaska, he responded, "This is the time to take advantage of the position I'm in." I wonder if he would tell who it was he was taking this 'advantage' of?

The senior Democrat on the House committee received $150 million, other senior members on the committee, $60 to $90 million, and junior members get $40 million.

I did talk about a relationship did I not? Well two pages further, the OP-ED page, is a story about the deadly, arsenic contaminated wells in Bangladesh. The opinion piece titled, "Bangladesh's Deadly Wells."

The important part of the story is the numbers. 12 million people currently use poisoned wells for their drinking and cooking needs. It is estimated that 50,000 community wells could be drilled deep enough to reach clean water at a cost of only $50 million dollars.

Let us see: a bridge to an island of 50 people for $250 million or safe drinking water for 12 million people for only $50 million.

My parents always told us kids while we were growing up was that money was not important. I know they were talking about building one's life around the need to have lots of money. It is certainly important how money is spent and what is the best value for spending those dollars. I am know there is not an easy answer to the question of how our, okay, your tax dollars are spent.

I think it would be pretty cool if we took a tiny $50 million from the $286.4 BILLION highway bill and paid for those new wells in Bangladesh. Then each time you pulled up to the gas pump and griped about the high price of the gas, you could picture some person across the globe enjoying a clean glass of healthy, non-poisoned water. Plain old wonderful H2O.
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