As a twitter follower of Senator John McCain (twitter name SenJohnMcCain), my text message box has clearly noticed that the Arizona Senator has started regularly sending out a Letterman-style top 10 list of that day’s 10 worst earmarks from the Omnibus bill. Granted, as a supporter of superfluous things like science, the environment, and the arts, I generally don’t agree with him, but this is his schtick and has been for a long time so I’m not at all surprised to see him list something like beaver management in North Carolina as an extraordinary luxury that the federal government shouldn’t have to foot the bill for. Has John McCain ever seen a North Carolina beaver? Has he ever looked into their beady little eyes? They’re like gremlins. Greatest national threat (besides bears) in my opinion.
In a Friday opinion piece from the Myrtle Beach newspaper The Sun News however, it appears that there are some who do not have my sense of understanding (and let’s be honest, rightfully so. John McCain! Get your act together!):
#6. $950,000 for a Convention Center in Myrtle Beach, SC
– Tweet from Sen. John McCain.
Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP candidate for president, has been having fun with his twitter.com account lately. He (or perhaps an aide) scrutinizes the $410 billion omnibus appropriations bill under consideration in Congress for earmarked projects that strike him as silly, then publishes daily “pork” lists on the micro-blogging Web site. Among the projects that made one of McCain’s Wednesday list is $950,000 for expanding the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
The purpose of this pork-identification exercise, apparently, is to make congressional earmarks a political wedge issue for the Republicans (even though 40 percent of the earmarks in the bill are attributable to Republicans). Demonize earmark-backed projects as pork of socialistic nature attributable to President Obama and the Democrats, and perhaps you can re-energize the tattered GOP base.
Twitter is made to order for such political misdirection. As readers familiar with the service know, it limits messages to 140 characters – the perfect format for context-free political zingers. McCain has more than 143,000 followers on Twitter, so his zingers reach a large audience. And considering that McCain’s true believers share his “tweets” with others (that’s how we found out about it), the senator’s audience might run in the millions. Regardless, readers of McCain’s Convention Center tweet are now invited to think – without the inconvenience of critical reflection – that the Myrtle Beach Convention Center project has no value.
Wrong. The project has huge potential for the long-term creation of wealth and jobs here on the Grand Strand, and the $950,000 infusion advances that goal.
The proposed expansion of the Convention Center to include space for larger trade shows got a lot of ink a few years back. Larger shows in an expanded center would fill up local hotels at the times of years when occupancy is low while energizing restaurants and retail establishments in the during typically slow times of year, building jobs and economic activity for the entire region.
Equally important, larger trade shows could acquaint new visitors with decision-making authority with our communities. In tandem with an aggressive, well-run local economic-development outreach effort, trade-show visits could become an important recruitment tool for nontourism diversification of our local economy.
To that end, the S.C. General Assembly two years ago approved a
$7 million grant toward land acquisition for the expansion project – money that must be spent by 2011 or lost. The total estimated cost of the expansion is $70 million – a price that local, not federal, taxpayers will pay. The new $950,000 in earmark money will go into the city’s land-acquisition kitty.
The irony in all this: In bad-mouthing the project on Twitter, McCain threw Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., his supposed close pal, to the wolves.
It was Graham, long a supporter of Grand Strand economic-development projects, who inserted the Convention Center earmark into the appropriations bill. Our counter-tweet to McCain:Graham deserves praise, not mockery, for this earmark. The money in question won’t be wasted.
Just one word: BOOYAH. This editorial gives the kind of legitimate explanation that exists for many of the earmarks that are being ridiculed: creation of jobs, infrastructure, and investment in the future of the local economy. As much as we may theoretically hate the idea of specific legislators marking specific money for their own state projects, it is a) a big part of what we actually elect our Congressional representatives to do, and b) not inherently evil. Clearly the system needs an overhaul, as the number of earmarks in the Omnibus is exorbitant, but to say that this money will definitely go to waste, rather than pumping necessary capital into local communities and potentially creating jobs/ tourism/ various other revenue streams, is simple and silly. So if the states desperately need money, and we know that they do, and Republicans want smaller government, less taxes, more state control, etc., why are earmarks not the solution instead of the problem? And in all seriousness, if not earmarks, is there a better means of appropriating the necessary money to the states that need it without creating greater bureaucracy?
*60% of earmarks in the Omnibus come from Democrats, 40% from Republicans. That essentially represents the make-up of Congress so this is definitely a bipartisan issue.