Wednesday, November 7, 2007


NOTE TO ALL VISITORS: I've started another blog, one that deals with personal finances -- basically living better on less. It's meant to be humorous, insightful, and eye-opening. Please pay me a visit at: Then, bookmark it, keep coming back, and tell all your friends -- even your enemies -- to visit. It will have a new column every day. And God bless the blogosphere. -- Steve

If John Murtha went to his Eternal Reward tomorrow, most of the bogus “jobs” he’s brought to Johnstown would disappear before the funeral Mass.

Voters who habitually cast their ballots for John Murtha are unintentionally ensuring that their kids and grandkids aren't going to be able to live in Johnstown, PA

John Murtha, congressman from Pennsylvania's Johnstown area, is a master of the nasty political business called "earmarks." These are basically federal grants that powerful congressmen get for special projects -- basically, no bid contracts -- in their districts.

The most famous earmark in modern times is the one Congressman Young of Alaska got for "The Bridge to Nowhere." Recently, Alaska's no-nonsense Governor, Sarah Palin, torpedoed the Bridge to Nowhere. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania's Governor, Ed Rendell, lacks the intestinal fortitude to do the same with Murtha's make-work earmarks.

Here's what the Harrisburg Patriot recently said about Murtha's earmarks:

"Murtha's a master of the 'earmark,' those pet projects and special interest items that lawmakers tuck into appropriations bills with little public scrutiny. Taxpayers for Common Sense estimates that Murtha has directed $600 million in earmarks to his district in the last four years."

"Over his 33 years in Congress, the [Wall Street] Journal found, many of his earmarks were for projects opposed by the Pentagon and other federal agencies as inefficient or unnecessary."

"Earmarks have become the way of doing business in Washington, where they were perfected to an art form by the previous Republican Congress. But Murtha's use of them is almost legendary."

Not only has he brought home the bacon, but the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, which recently listed Murtha as one of the most corrupt members of Congress, says he uses his power as subcommittee chairman to threaten to withhold earmarks from others who don't see certain political matters his way."

Murtha defends the earmark process as a good one. He says individual members of Congress are in the best position to determine how money should be doled out in their districts.

"That could be, but it has little to so with this system, which shortchanges taxpayers whose representatives and senators lack the seniority necessary to take the lid off the cookie jar"

The Harrisburg Patriot concludes, "And that should serve as a warning to those in Murtha's district. Enjoy it while it lasts, because he won't be there forever. Someday the gravy train will be redirected by some other political bully. By Murtha's own philosophy, that's as it should be in Washington."

Of course, Murtha's earmarks are very popular among short-sighted people in the Johstown area. However, as the Patriot indicates, the problem is that, when Murtha's politicalcareer comes to an end, the earmarks will dry up. At that point, the companies that bought Murtha's favors with campaign contributions have no reason to stay in the area. One supects that, before Murtha's funeral mass concludes, many of them will be gone.

At that point, Johnstown might soon be back at the situation it had in 1983, with 24% unemploymnet.

There are many things wrong with "earmark politics." It's essentially a very expensive way of increasing employment. Also, it essentially raises taxes in order to benefit one region at the expense of the rest of the country. It certainly increases Americans' cynicism about how politics works.

Let's compare Johnstown, population of about 27,000, to Blue Springs, Mississippi, population 150, a village near Tupelo, Mississippi (where "Elvis" was born). The prospects of that tiny town are much better than those of Johnstown.

Why? Because Toyota is building a large auto assembly plant there. Soon, Toyota will be the world's largest automaker -- and one of the most profitable.

Unlike Murtha's phantom companies, the Toyota plant should be around for many years. It will provide many good jobs for the current generation in the area -- and probably for their children and grandchildren. With the multiplier effect, the Toyota facility will lead to the creation of many small businesses -- and perhaps some large ones.

In other words, Toyota in Blue Springs will be a real company providing real jobs. Its future will not be dependent on some congressman's clout in extracting earmarks from the political system. In contrast, John Murtha's "accomplishments" in Johnstown will largely fade away when his tenure ends.

Apparently, Murtha assumes that Johnstown can't survive without the distribution of billions in dollars in government handouts.

The situation in Johnstown would be much different if Murtha had taken a page from Blue Springs, a town where taxes are low, the labor conditions are good, and the climate for private business is excellent. Is the climate for such businesses in Johnstown good? Apparently, only for those companies whose commitments to Johnstown depend directly on their receipt of federal dollars.

If you go to, you'll find that several companies -- including University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and PMA -- have given Murtha hundreds of thousands of dollars. That from companies that have received hundreds of millions (in taxpayer funds) from the congressman's efforts. When Murtha stops "giving," as the Patriot suggests, the companies will get going -- right out of Johnstown.

Johnstown will be able to tackle the real issues confronting the community when it elects a new congressman. That person will be William Russell, who's committed to putting the area on a sound economic footing -- and on creating jobs that will outlast the tenure of any congressman.

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