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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

KATRINA: Congress Should Take Back the Pork; Use it Instead to Rebuild Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama

Nobody knows at this point how much it will cost to rebuild the areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama that were struck by Hurricane Katrina, but early estimates were in excess of $30 billion. There is little doubt that the ultimate cost will be far in excess of that figure even.

So how to pay for the rebuilding? How about starting with the $286 billion transportation bill approved last month, along with its $6.5 billion in pork barrel projects? And the first of those pork projects that should be re-directed to hurricane relief is the $190 million bridge to nowhere shepherded through Congress by Rep. Don Young, R-AK, the GOP's answer to Sen. Robert Byrd, D-WV, the Democrats' reigning porkmeister.

Here's how Taxpayers for Common Sense described the project when the group gave Young its Golden Fleece Award:

"[The $190 million project] is for a one-mile bridge from the town of Ketchikan, Alaska on Revillagigedo Island to Gravina Island, a sparsely populated island on the southern end of the Alaskan Peninsula. This bridge is purportedly meant to replace the ferryboats which adequately handle passenger traffic between the islands. Far from being beneficial to the local economy, the bridge would jeopardize Ketchikan's largest industry: tourism."

Instead of building the bridge to nowhere, how about instead spending that money on rebuilding the Lake Ponchatrain spans that have extensive damage, including numerous sections that have fallen into the water?

How could Young or any of the other senators and congressmen who got all that pork say no to a request that they support a measure in Congress to redirect all of the highway bill earmarks - aka pork - to the rebuilding of the ravaged areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama?

New Orleans is our number one port for imports because of its location at the mouth of the Mississippi River and its water highway to the heartland of America. Our economy depends in great part on the Port of New Orleans being open, so it is a matter of national security.

And there may well be up to a million people in Lousiana, Mississippi and Alabama who have been left homeless. Thousands of these people have literally lost everything they couldn't stuff into their cars and trucks as they fled Katrina.

So which is more important - building Don Young's bridge in Alaska to nowhere or rebuilding America's number one port and the lives of so many of our fellow Americans? Whose side is Congress on, anyway?