Neutering the Spenders

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The Washington Examiner reports on projects funded by the economic stimulus package passed earlier this year that most taxpayers will find either dubious or objectionable.  

The items include: 
  • $430,000 to repair a bridge in Iowa County, Wis., that carries 10 or fewer cars per day.
  • $1.15 million to install a guardrail for a persistently dry lake bed in Guymon, Okla.
  • $9.38 million to renovate an old train depot in Lancaster County, Pa., that has not been used for three decades.
  • $6 million for a snow-making facility in Duluth, Minn.
  • $173,834 to weatherize eight pickup trucks in Madison County, Ill.
  • $1.5 million for a fence to block would-be jumpers from leaping off the All-American Bridge in Akron, Ohio.
  • $380,000 to spay and neuter pets in Wichita, Kan.
  • $983,952 for street beautification in Ann Arbor, Mich., including decorative lighting, trees, benches and bike paths.
  • $3.1 million to transform a canal barge into a floating museum that will travel the Erie Canal in New York state.
  • $1 million for Portland, Ore., to replace 100 aging bike lockers and build a garage that would house 250 bicycles.
Note that all 10 of these federally-funded projects are purely local in nature. So we have policymakers in Congress from, say, Florida and New York ultimately voting on spending your tax dollars on pet neutering in Wichita. I’m sure that most members of Congress have no idea whether Wichita is in need of more neutering. 
 
Now it’s true that members of Congress could get the Congressional Budget Office to write up a study on neutering in Wichita in order to make an informed vote on the matter. But wouldn’t it make more sense for local voters and politicians in Wichita to balance the costs and benefits of local animal policies? When the same level of government that does the spending has to impose the pain of higher taxes on constituents, we get more responsible spending decisions and more accountable government.
 
Critics of the stimulus package are pointing to specific projects as examples of wasted taxpayer money. But it’s more important to recognize that regardless of a project’s merit, the federal government should not be funding local activities to begin with. With state and local governments addicted to federal funding, a return to the fiscal federalism envisioned by the Constitution would go a long way in fixing the spending problem at all levels of government.