Scoffing is Easy – Especially if You’re Ignorant

moneyI’ve noticed a tendency among reporters to scoff at things they know little or nothing about. And because readers are too lazy to check the facts for themselves, this often leads to unfair characterization of our lawmakers. Oh, I know “Washington” and “the bureaucracy” often deserve criticism, but I’m tired of the cheap shots they’re taking.

I’m sure you’ve heard John McCain and Sarah Palin promising to “shake up” Washington and “end waste, corruption, etc.” (Is that before or after he “defeats evil” in the world?) McCain’s favorite target is “earmarks,” otherwise known as “pork.” But, as I pointed out in an earlier blog, there are good earmarks (such as bridges, community centers and education programs) as well as bad earmarks.

Today, you can’t read a news story about that $700 billion bailout bill without seeing a reference to the  pork” that it’s supposedly loaded with. Now, I am very uneasy about the bailout. I don’t think it will do much good; I think the money would be better spent keeping people in their homes instead of rewarding the rogues who helped create the national foreclosure crisis. And I can’t shake the feeling that some of those billions are going to end up in the pockets of politicians and their underworld associates – which is what happened in the Savings & Loan crisis a couple of decades ago.

But back to the “pork.” To me, most of that “pork” seems more justifiable than the bill. Here’s a list of tax-break beneficiaries that I found on the web:

    – Film and television productions
    – Wooden arrows designed for use by children
    – Litigants in the 1989 Exxon Valdez incident, Alaska
    – Virgin Island and Puerto Rican Rum
    – American Samoa
    – Mine rescue teams
    – Mine safety equipment
    – Domestic production activities in Puerto Rico
    – Indian tribes
    – Railroads
    – Auto racing tracks
    – District of Columbia
    – Wool research

I obviously don’t have the space to go into every item on the list, but what’s so outrageous about tax breaks for film and television productions? Or Puerto Rican rum manufacturers? Or railroads (which I am convinced are essential to solving our energy and transportation problems)? Do you know how poor most Puerto Rican people are? And don’t you think the Indian tribes deserve any breaks they get, considering what we did to them when we stole their land? Surely, you don’t think mine safety is a waste of money? And remember how those Exxon Valdes litigants were shafted by the Supreme Court? It seems only fair that they should get a break. When you recall that the oil companies (which make billions of dollars a quarter) get many more billions in tax breaks, it seems only fair that wool research should be given a pass. (I’m not so sure about auto racing tracks – although I believe horse racing gets tax breaks.)

O.K., so you’ve seen and heard a lot of scoffing about those wooden arrows used by children. It’s a small thing but it has larger implications. This item was included to correct a stupid mistake: The excise tax on the arrows was more than the price they sell for! If I were a lawmaker I wouldn’t hesitate to fix something like that – regardless of the scoffers.

So, tell those reporters to stop sneering and take the trouble to find out what’s really going in in Washington. They might find that a lot of people are doing their best to run a vast country of more than 300 million people – many of whom tend to behave like spoiled brats. And lazy reporters don’t help when they misrepresent useful projects as “pork.”

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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