Newsweek's Hirsh: Don't Worry About Pork, This is an 'Emergency'

It’s time to wave the white flag and surrender to “post-partisan” unity.


Yes, it’s time for conservatives to abandon core principles and just allow the Pelosi/Reid/Obama pork-a-palooza, also known as the stimulus or the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009, to pass into law. At least that’s what one Newsweek columnist would have conservatives do.


Now is not the time for political bickering in this “post-partisan” era, said Newsweek columnist Michael Hirsh in a Web exclusive piece for Newsweek dated Feb. 4. Hirsh reflected on how Obama has lost grip on the “agenda in Washington,” and complained how the debate on the stimulus has proceeded, “nitpicking over efficiency” instead of debating the size.


“Yes, there are still some very legitimate issues with a bill that’s supposed to be ‘temporary’ and ‘targeted’ – among them, large increases in permanent entitlement spending, and a paucity of tax cuts that will prompt immediate spending,” Hirsh wrote. “Even so, Obama has allowed Congress to grow embroiled in nitpicking over efficiency when the central debate should be about whether the package is big enough.”


From Hirsh’s point-of-view, wasteful pork spending for the stimulus is just a consequence and this is not the time to sweat that detail. The opposition to this bill over pork-barrel spending – which is on both sides of the aisles in Congress – should cease, since this is an “emergency.”


“When you are dealing with a stimulus of this size, there are going to be wasteful expenditures and boondoggles,” Hirsh continued. “There’s no way anyone can spend $800 to $900 billion quickly without waste and boondoggles. It comes with the Keynesian territory. This is an emergency; the normal rules do not apply.”


A representative from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., recently distributed a list of the more outrageous items in what he called the “Generational Theft Act, aka Senate Stimulus Bill.” Hirsh would have elected leaders ignore items like:


    $2 billion earmark to restart FutureGen, a near-zero emissions coal power plant in Illinois that the Dept. of Energy defunded last year because the project was inefficient $650 million for the digital television (DTV) converter box coupon program $88 million for the Coast Guard to design a new polar icebreaker (Arctic ship) $448 million for constructing the Dept. of Homeland Security headquarters $248 million for furniture at the new Dept. of Homeland Security headquarters $600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees $400 million for the CDC to screen and prevent STDs $1.4 billion for a rural waste disposal programs $125 million for the Washington, D.C. sewer system $150 million for Smithsonian museum facilities $1 billion for the 2010 Census, which has a projected cost overrun of $3 billion $200 million for public computer centers at community colleges $75 million for salaries of employees at the FBI $25 million for tribal alcohol and substance abuse reduction $500 million for flood reduction projects on the Mississippi River $10 million to inspect canals in urban areas $6 billion to turn federal buildings into “green” buildings $500 million for state and local fire stations $650 million for wildland fire management on Forest Service lands $150 million for Smithsonian museum facilities $1.2 billion for “youth activities,” including youth summer job programs $88 million for renovating the headquarters of the Public Health Service $412 million for CDC buildings and property $500 million for building and repairing NIH facilities in Bethesda, MD $160 million for “paid volunteers” at the Corporation for National and Community Service $5.5 million for “energy efficiency initiatives” at the VA “National Cemetery Administration” $60 million for Arlington National Cemetery $850 million for Amtrak $100 million for reducing the hazard of lead-based paint $75M to construct a new “security training” facility for State Dept Security officers when they can be trained at existing facilities of other agencies. $110 million to the Farm Service Agency to upgrade computer systems $200 million in funding for the lease of alternative energy vehicles for use on military installations.  $275 million for “watershed and flood prevention operations” Unspecified assistance for “nonambulatory cattle”