Fiscal Responsibility

Sept. 28, 2010

Rod Sutton, Editor in ChiefDamage done by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita requires massive rebuilding, and the effort to accomplish these tasks has pulled equipment out of the North American distribution channel. Equipment managers in all the other regions of the country are feeling the pinch.

Additional pain may be coming from Washington, as lawmakers wrestle with the financial response. With little discussion on the merits or limits of the amount spent, Federal lawmakers have determined that hurricane relief may trump interstate commerce as a constitutional responsibility. A stretch? As the Federal government now looks for the cash to fund relief efforts, they are turning to a transportation bill recognized even by its supporters as pork-filled.

The transportation construction industry, which relies mightily on federal as well as state tax dollars, should reconsider how our representatives manage these funds. Our national transportation infrastructure needs are between three and four times more than what the recently passed bill earmarks. But instead of wisely allocating the money in a reduced spending bill, lawmakers packed the bill with pet projects, making it a prime target for reallocation efforts today.

The irony of these discussions may be difficult to discern, but consider the philosophy behind the platitudes. We now consider it a national responsibility to fix the damage caused by natural disasters, and by declaring a "disaster" we start the funds flowing. In the 50 years recorded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the annual number of declared disasters has jumped from about 15 to around 150. It would be interesting to analyze how the definition of "disaster" has evolved and track how disaster locations relate to Congressional representation.

Other areas of questionable federal financial responsibility exist, too, and every member of Congress is guilty of piling it on. The enormous financial drain caused by Katrina and Rita has only served to bring the moneygrubbing to light.

If we're going to allow the expansion of the financial role of the Federal government, we had better keep a closer eye on our representatives. The money spent by government belongs to its citizens. As citizens, it's our responsibility to make sure our money is spent wisely and fairly. It's time to stop grabbing for the pork.

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