Pork-Hustling House Republicans Make The Case For Infrastructure Spending

Sam Stein profiles the efforts of spending-averse freshman House Republicans to secure millions of dollars in federal spending:

Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), a member of the freshmen Republican class of the House of Representatives whose district includes the port project, faced a predicament. Elected as a fiscal hawk, with pledges to get spending under control, he could either go to the mat for Cates Landing or make a philosophical, self-sacrificial statement.

He chose the former. On March 8, 2011, Gannett news service reported that the funding for Cates Landing was being targeted by lawmakers looking to slash the federal budget. The same day that report came out, Fincher spoke directly with Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about the funds. The next day, he wrote a follow-up letter seeking assistance in “obligating” the $13 million grant for the port.

There’s much more there. And, look, not just to point fingers and cry “hypocrite” but the vast majority of these requests for funding seem justified to me. It happens to be the case that at the most, the interest rate the federal government needs to pay to borrow money is extraordinarily low. At the same time, the United States of America has a lot of idle resources. Under most circumstances, high levels of government borrowing risk “crowding out” valuable private sector activity. But that’s not the case currently. We have a shortage of jobs, not a shortage of workers. We have a shortage of investment opportunities rather than a shortage in savings. That doesn’t mean every random project every member of Congress can dream up is a good idea, but we should trust House members to be fairly good at figuring out whichever particular project is deemed particularly urgent or beneficial by the community that he or she represents.


The problem, though, is that all these different members with their hands out can’t all win. There’s a fixed pool of funds to go around. And House Republicans are fighting to shrink the pool when they should be expanding it.