Jeff Walker of Floyd thinks I should be more "temperate" when it comes to chastising local Congressman Rick Boucher for his lavish use of "earmarks" (AKA Congressional pork) to buy votes in Southwestern Virginia.
Citizens watchdog groups have long cited Boucher as one of the kings of pork in Congress and he has no qualms about spending millions upon millions of federal funds to cultivate support from his district.
Two other Virginia Congressmen appear often on the walls of shame when it comes to pork: Rep. Bob Goodlatte and former Rep. Virgil Goode, whom voters had the sense to dump in the last election.
Says Walker about Boucher:
I have to say that critical comments about the Federal facilities funded through the actions of Boucher ought to be tempered as well, as our Representative he has kept his eye on the ball. We can probably agree that there is a role to be played by the Fed in taking on projects that are not appropriate for private initiatives.
This is what I love about the hypocrisy of local bias. What Walker sees as Boucher keeping "his eye on the ball" is, in the eyes of watchdog groups like Citizens Against Government Waste, just plain, old-fashioned pork.
And it is.
$400,000 by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) for horseshoe crab research at Virginia Tech. According to a March 28, 2008
Times Dispatch article, “The horseshoe crab’s blood is useful in intravenous medications and has cancer-fighting properties.” This is a crabby case of corporate welfare; companies that need the research should pay for it. Richmond
The 2009 federal budget will include funding for some strange animals if one Virginia lawmaker has his way.
Rep. Rick Boucher, a Democrat from southwest Virginia, has requested $744,325 to study the horseshoe crab and $250,000 for hair sheep – a unique bread of short-haired sheep that does not require shearing.
Both requests would go to Virginia Tech, which already has efforts to establish a “hair sheep research center” to study the genetics of the sheep and improve the animal’s resistance to parasites, and get more people to buy the lamb’s meat.
…Critics of earmarks, like David Williams, a vice president at Citizens Against Government Waste, laughed at the requests.
“Would it be inappropriate to say, ‘This is baaaad,‘” Williams joked. “Those are ridiculous local projects that should not be paid for by taxpayers across the country.” …
The article goes on to defend the earmarks as being necessary for food supply and even medicine, but because these projects are earmarks, they have not been properly vetted. Even if these were national priorities, how do we know if southwestern Virginia is the best place for funding projects of this kind? Rep. Boucher isn’t asking for funding based on any proven merit, but because it will go to his district.
Or this from last year’s Roanoke Times:
To distant watchdogs targeting wasteful spending by Congress, some federal funds flowing to Southwest and Southside Virginia this year may raise eyebrows.
Such as $245,000 for awnings and infrastructure improvements at the historic farmers market in downtown Roanoke. Or $149,000 to control coyotes. Or $98,000 to expand the Bassett Historical Center.
Those are examples of targeted federal spending, or "earmarks," secured by the three veteran congressmen who represent Southwest Virginia — Republicans Bob Goodlatte of Roanoke County and Virgil Goode of Rocky Mount, and Democrat Rick Boucher of Abingdon.
Boucher had a hand in $9.4 million worth of earmarks in the current fiscal year, according to the database.
The Times goes on to offer some defense of Boucher’s pork by listing only projects that benefit "first responders" and other projects that appear justifiable, at least on the surface. Not surprising: The Times has never been shy about defending local pork.
But don’t expect my comments on pork spending to "be tempered" simply because our local Congressman is using the pork for our area. Pork is still pork and I don’t look the other way when the lard is ladled into Southwestern Virginia.
You want temperance? Try a summer tent revival. You won’t find it here.