Try this. Do a web search on “Homeland Security Pork.” You’ll get articles about “homeland-security rescue and communications equipment” for North Pole, Alaska, or fake nuclear power plants in Nevada. You can read how FEMA was stripped to pay for big spending elsewhere and “that $38 million went to cover fire claims related to the April 2001 Cerro Grande fire in New Mexico.”
In the name of protecting U. S. citizens, congress has spent nearly $207 billion since September 11, 2001. President Bush used this spending to demonstrate how strong he was against terror. The sales of loafers and sandals have probably increased since the Transportation Security Administration (TSA is part of the department of Homeland Security) now requires that we remove our shoes before boarding airplanes, but our nation’s ports complain that they’re not safer than they were before “the day everything changed” and that they need help.
The problem though is that a (no longer) brand-new government organization is ill-suited to solve the problems of security or terrorism and much more capable spending money on pork-barrel projects. The central government taxes the people and then the states must go to the central government to beg and justify that their citizens need some of their money back to protect themselves.
It’s not surprising, then, that New York City is upset that they’re
handout funding was cut 40%. It’s not surprising that Bush appointee and secretary of Homeland Security, Micheal Cherthof is being described as “embattled” as he tries to alternately justify and defend the 2007 funding.
Homeland Security funding turns out to be good evidence why the central government shouldn’t be trusted with doling out money for local activities. The cities and states know better how to spend their money. The system we have in place results in what I call the “race for the bottom.” When the authorities have control over resources then those who should receive them race to show who is more needy than the next. Failing that, they’ll be forced to bribe, cheat, or steal to get the money they are confident they deserve in the first place. There is zero motivation for Omaha to hand over money to New York City and Los Angeles doesn’t care what happens in St. Louis. Adding insult to this injury, the layer of bureaucracy in the middle must be padded with reports on justifications and requirements and the dollars associated with writing and reading all of them.
Of course there are activities for which the central government is best suited (few of them, true, but the military is an obvious example…) but it’s difficult, in the face of recent history not to see the department of Homeland Security as more than political posturing and an unfortunate opportunity for more spending by politicians than a sincere and effective agency to prevent terrorism at home. We may not like it, but spending is always rewarded. It’s our money, and we like getting it back, even if the president and congress like to make us be for it.
Alas states and cities aren’t necessarily much better at spending money wisely but my voice might get heard at home; it’s very unlikely to be heard in Washington. In addition to having an ill-advised government bureaucracy called Homeland Security we have local governments spending to defend their citizens from terrorist acts at any cost. Local city councils aren’t cynical Washington insiders. They’re doing their sincere best to defend us because the Bush administration has told them to be afraid, very afraid. We should expect to hear more about being afraid as we approach November and U. S. citizens consider whether they will keep the current congress (most of which voted to go to war with Iraq, for the patriot act, for the creation of the department of Homeland Security and for the pork it created).
Be afraid, be very afraid.