Editor’s Viewpoint: Buddy, can you spare a billion?
I’m waiting for the blowback from handing local and state governments billions of dollars to repair the nation’s infrastructure, but the negative reactions may be limited. First, it’s not a bailout where the federal government awards money to banks, financial institutions or car companies that have made a host of bad, if not illegal, decisions that have all but capsized their boats.
Second, like the homeland security cash that’s been disbursed since 2001, spending taxpayers’ money for local projects that boost employment while repairing dangerous roads, bridges and crumbling water systems is downright democratic. In fact, the program is being called an economic stimulus package, and it’s not bailing out anything except the results of poor decisions made by less-than-courageous politicians and shortsighted taxpayers.
Assuming a bill funneling money to local and state governments passes, the ugly part will be when congressmen and women start scrambling for the funds. (I’ll bet several out-of-work politicians could make a killing by consulting.)
Rather than the closed-door, arm-twisting trading of favors that accompany every potful of money Congress distributes, I would prefer a more open process, even taking cues from television game shows. Picture, for example, each legislator stepping into a glass box with thousand dollar bills stacked on the floor. As fans are turned on to blow the money around, they would have 60 seconds to pocket as much dough as possible. The Congressional money grab would be repeated as many times as necessary to “distribute” the funds. Using that method also could be the answer to those who favor term limits because residents would vote for younger, more physically fit candidates. A special edition of “Jeopardy” might be another way for representatives to secure federal funds for their constituents. On the other hand, to make it fair, and to avoid some embarrassment, maybe they should consider using a Congressional version of “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?”
I am not suggesting using game shows to distribute the money because our nation’s infrastructure repairs are trivial. But, considering how Americans are more interested in watching “Dancing With the Stars” than repairing dangerous roads and bridges, maybe Congress should try a more entertaining approach to getting their attention.
You and I know that Congress won’t use television shows to divvy up the money, because they’ve perfected their own games over the centuries. But, when preparing the bill to fund infrastructure repairs, they should consider my interpretation of the old wedding custom in their recipe: “Something old (infrastructure), something new (environmentalism), something borrowed (the money), and something blue (those who have to pay it off). But, with bridges that don’t fall and water that is drinkable, at least they will be getting something for their money.