Thursday, September 11, 2008

Palin and the Bridge to Nowhere

Sarah Palin has come in for considerable criticism from the left for the opposition to the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere". They note she was for it before she was against it, campaigning for the project while running for governor of Alaska. Indeed, Paul Begala in a move symptomatic of much of the left has flat-out called Palin a liar. And to an extent they have a valid argument -- but they also completely miss the point.

The big deal over the Bridge to Nowhere isn't just the bridge, it's symbolic of a larger opposition by Palin to wasteful government spending. And while imperfect on this front, she certainly represents a noted improvement.

To wit:

* Palin placed a government owned jet, purchased by her Republican predecessor, for sale on eBay. It was eventually sold by an aircraft broker for $2.1 million.

* Palin got rid of the governor's personal chef.

* Palin vetoed over a quarter-billion dollars in spending as governor. That was the second year in a row she vetoed various spending projects.

As Deroy Murdock notes:
Palin’s first budget requested a 6.8-percent expenditure reduction. Her second proposed a 7.8-percent cut. When legislators spent even more, she could have holstered her veto pen, as Bush did for six years. ...“She has proposed restraint in state spending, which is impressive given the huge, oil-fueled surpluses the state is currently enjoying,” says Cato Institute scholar Chris Edwards.
With regard to the Bridge to Nowhere, meanwhile, it's apparent that whatever the specifics she played a key role in its eventual demise:

Noted earmark foe Sen. Tom Coburn:
“The fact is that Sarah Palin is one of the few governors that actually got religion on this and said, ‘Hey, this is stupid. This is killing us,'" said Coburn. “Here’s the point to take away: The ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ in Alaska got killed because of Sarah Palin.”
This is what Taxpayer's for Common Sense said at the time that the bridge was officially killed:
Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), our new favorite Governor, pulled the plug on this project and committed to finding a more “fiscally responsible” approach to improving access to the Ketchikan Airport on Gravina Island. Gov. Palin plans to redirect the money not spent on the bridge to upgrade the ferry system and other projects that will result in cost-effective solutions to real transportation problems in the State.
Lastly, let's compare Palin with her opponents, Senators Obama and Biden:
The earmark for the Bridge to Nowhere originally appeared in the now-infamous highway bill of 2005. That bill included $24 billion in pork-barrel earmarks and will end up costing taxpayers a reckless $286.5 billion over six years. It passed on a 91-4 vote in the U.S. Senate on July 29, 2005, with Sen. John McCain standing in opposition along with three other lonely voices for fiscal responsibility. Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden both voted for the bill and its bridge of ill repute.
Hmmm. What about the larger earmark picture?

Mr. Obama has again started a debate he can't win. As senator, he has requested nearly $936 million in earmarks, ratcheting up his requests each year he's been in the Senate.
That's certainly interesting. Here's more:
Mr. Obama delivered over $100 million in earmarks to Illinois last year and has requested nearly a billion dollars in pet projects since 2005. His running mate, Joe Biden, is still indulging in earmarks, securing over $90 million worth this year.
Is Palin perfect on spending? No. Is she better than Obama and Biden? Yes. Is she better than most politicians on such matters? Undoubtedly yes. Everything is just a distraction.

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