Porkbusters

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Glenn Reynolds's Instapundit and blogger N.Z. Bear have started a Porkbusters campaign. The idea is to give up pork barrel projects and leave the money to be spent on recovery from Katrina.

"Identify some wasteful spending in your state or (even better) Congressional District. Put up a blog post on it. Go to N.Z. Bear's new PorkBusters page and list the pork, and add a link to your post."

A worthy idea, and one that raises the question, an uncomfortable one surely for many congressmen, of whether voters really value pork barrel projects. Of course some interested parties do, but do most voters? In the course of writing the Almanac of American Politics, I have to read of all the various projects that members bring to their districts. It's tedious reading after a while. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the chief pork-dispensing committee, has 75 members, the most of any committee in Congress—perhaps the most of any legislative committee in the world (does any reader know whether that's true?). And of course every member gets to earmark projects worth a certain amount of money.

The most famous pork project in the recently passed and signed transportation bill is the $315 million "bridge to nowhere." It's actually a bridge from Ketchikan, Alaska, to Gravina Island. Ketchikan Borough has a population of 13,320; Gravina Island is largely uninhabited but is the site of Ketchikan's airport. Currently Ketchikan residents can get to the airport on a seven-minute ferry ride. The bridge would be about the same length as the Golden Gate Bridge and would be south of Ketchikan, so that travel time to the airport by car would be about the same. Alaska Congressman-at-Large Don Young is chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and a big booster of this bridge. Construction will surely bring some money into Ketchikan's economy. But the bridge won't be good for the guys who run the ferry. Some projects earmarked in the transportation bill are surely worthwhile. I'll let you decide if the bridge to nowhere is one of them.