For any given federal expenditure of funds, there’s an argument to be had over whether the deadweight loss to the economy caused by the taxation required to generate the funds exceeds the benefit obtained by the expenditure. But this is a technical argument that’s difficult to win decisively. And at the same time, the government rarely spends money on anything that’s genuinely pointless—though presidents do sometime propose the idea of a manned mission to Mars. Consequently, even though everyone’s against “out of control spending” and “pork” and everyone knows that “fiscal responsibility” is good, it’s difficult to criticize specific actual expenditures in a persuasive way. One popular thing the GOP has been doing to get around this problem in recent months is to criticize made-up programs. So the right is against a $30 million mouse earmark that they’re pretending Nancy Pelosi put in the stimulus, they’re against an $8 billion scheme to build a Disneyland-Vegas mag-lev train that they’re pretending Harry Reid put in the stimulus, and now they’ve invented a tattoo removal program that they’re pretending is in the omnibus appropriations bill.
Their other big idea is feigned stupidity. Michael Steele pretended not to know what a fish passage barrier removal program is. Turns out that these are programs designed to remove barriers to the passage of fish. So that fish species don’t vanish from certain habits and wreck entire ecosystems. Bobby Jindal was inspired to denounce “something called volcano monitoring”. Volcano monitoring is when you monitor volcanos to try to understand when they might erupt. And now we get this Tweet from John McCain:
Not having ever worked in beaver management before, I couldn’t say in detail how a beaver-management program would work. But again the basic concept here is really pretty clear. But if McCain is really confused, he could look it up. Brendan Nyhan suggests that we may need to let the GOP know about Let Me Google That For You. If anyone out there wants to know why beavers could be a problem for a given area, or about different ways that you can manage the beaver population and minimize beaver-related problems I would direct them to the Beaver Control and Management Information page on the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management. I found that right away using Google.