Republican politicians like Mitch McConnell will talk incessantly about the profligate spending in Washington when they are pandering to their primary voters. But they will seldom tell you which functions of government should be devolved to the states, privatized, or eliminated altogether.
On Wednesday, the Senate passed a $12.2 billion water bill to fund many water-related projects that can and should be under the responsibility of state governments or private enterprise. Bills like this are not flashy or exciting to report on, but they embody our big government problem. If we are going to continue to reauthorize major federal projects without at least implementing some modest reforms to devolve responsibility to the states, we will never limit government.
Here is what the Heritage Foundation had to say about the bill’s local special interests:
Over the years, lawmakers have ill-advisedly folded local or private-sector activities (such as beach replenishment, hydropower generation, flood control, and recreation facility construction and management) into the corps’s mission. Distracted by parochial interests and the allure of federal funds for pet projects, lawmakers are thus discouraged from setting rigorous cost-benefit analyses as a requirement. If the private sector or local citizens were paying for projects in full, they would be incentivized to make wise investment and construction decisions to control costs.
Yet S. 601, for example, continues paying for the Corps’s 4,200-plus recreation areas. It also extends the life of beach nourishment projects by 15 years—which consist of pumping sand and sediment onto shorelines—even though they already last for 50 years. Such misguided federal spending on a local priority amounts to subsidizing wealthy owners of beachfront property.
Only 14 Republicans opposed the bill. McConnell, the GOP Leader, was not one of them.
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