Stimulating pork

When it comes to stimulating the economy, what could be better than a new multimillion-dollar polar-bear exhibit at a zoo? How about a municipal water slide? Or new BMX trails? A new building for the Miami Rowing Club?

Those were all among proposals made by a group of mayors who traveled to Washington, D.C., last week, eager to get their hands on some of the billions of dollars President-elect Barack Obama wants to invest in the country as part of his federal stimulus plan, currently estimated to cost about $775 billion.

Not all of the mayors’ projects were so blatantly porcine. Some of the 427 municipalities want money for traditional infrastructure, such as roads or water and sewer plants. But every city is claiming “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” will come with its proposals. Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, for example, wants $3.2 billion for 435 projects in his city that he claims will create more than 52,000 jobs.

Wow. By Diaz’s math, the Obama stimulus plan ought to create more than 12 million jobs, not the modest 3 million the president-elect is seeking. Miami’s proposed projects include the boathouse and water slide.

Fortunately, Obama doesn’t sound inclined to turn his stimulus plan into a Santa Claus bag of pet projects for every local politician seeking something. “It’s not just another public works program,” he declared Thursday, reiterating his statement that he expects two-thirds of the new jobs to come in the private sector.

Here’s hoping he sticks to that plan, and rejects the mayors’ pork proposals.


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