Saturday, April 25, 2009

It Screams “Pork”

If you don’t remember the “bridge to nowhere” and the outrage over that pork project in Alaska, I shall remind you. It centered on the federal government supplying the funding for the multi-million dollar project to bridge a waterway to connect a handful of citizens on an island to the town proper. Alaska’s senior senator was at the center of the controversy and took endless flack for the project from the press, the blogs, prosecutors, and just about everyone but the folks who lived at the end of the bridge. It never materialized.

With better backing from a friendlier congress, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) had a more successful result in his “airport to nowhere.” He managed to receive about $150,000,000 for his constituency in federal funds to construct this useless airport. Over ten years of existence, it has enjoyed passenger traffic of twenty (20!) per day spread over the three (3!) flights to Washington, D.C., the only possible destination. The cost of The John P. Murtha, Johnstown Cambria County Airport over the ten year span currently figures out to a federal subsidy of $2054.48 per departing passenger using the facility. We use no magic numbers here: $150 m ÷ 10 years ÷ 365 days ÷ 20 passengers = $2054.48 per departure. For a 200 mile flight to D.C., that is over $10.00 per mile.

Why dwell on the arithmetic? For starters, let me say that I was thrilled to see an ABC report on this travesty which was remarkable if only for its presence and implied criticism. However, once I crunched the numbers I found they had used a different means arriving at their conclusions which you can easily see for yourself. They do not give you the arithmetic progression to see how they figure it. It looked to me as though for the cost of 5 flights each passenger could have been given a decent used pick-up and driven to D.C.. It would also have been more cost effective to send a chauffeured limousine to Johnstown to deliver the passengers to the Pittsburgh airport for multiple destination options. I’m certain that wouldn’t have exceeded two to three hundred per trip and with am included prepaid round trip flight to any US (and many foreign) destinations it would have been a comparative bargain.

The old chestnut goes like this: “figures don’t lie, but, liars figure.” Surely you don’t suppose? The AIG bonuses were in the same price range, contractual, and went to people who actually worked for a living. Is the moral equivalence outrage the same? Does this prompt me to criticize my local representative to Washington for not supplying Lawrence County with a chunk of pork the same size? He will not do this because of his party affiliation but rather because he is sane. It has little to do with party and much to do with personal promotion, ego, and self-aggrandizement.

While I have a measure of respect for John Murtha’s service to his country as a Marine it is not a suitable excuse for the rapine of the public purse. The actual guilt lies in the greed of his local supporters who are willing to return him year after year to a job for which he shows no fiscal responsibility.

One final thought: there was an entry in the stimulus package to furnish an additional $803,000 for relief to above mentioned airport.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

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