Paul Jacob

Don Young also blames term limits on committee chairmen, imposed by Republican House Caucus rule. With less time to wield power, Young suggests he has to do his ripping-off of taxpayers as fast as possible, before he loses his seat. Such is the logic we have come to expect from entrenched politicians.

Yet, the poor fellow is forced to compete with Senator Pork: Ted Stevens, also of Alaska. "I'd like to be a little oinker, myself," Mr. Young says good-naturedly when compared to Stevens. "If he's the chief porker, I'm upset." Earlier this year, I detailed just how Senator Stevens became a millionaire through using his powerful position and our tax dollars.

Some citizens of other states may be a tad jealous of the largesse shipped back to Alaskans. But the envy is misplaced, for the pork benefits the politicians and those connected to them, not the average Alaskan.

It's true, the Ketchikan bridge project will bring some jobs to the area--temporarily. But as mariner Dale Collins told The New York Times, "The funny thing, when that big bridge is done, it will take more time to get to the airport than it does now on our little ferry." A ferry that may be put out of business.

Small businessman Mike Salle knows the score: "[I]t's just a boondoggle that we're getting because we have a powerful congressman. That ferry of ours has been pretty darn reliable."

What can be done? First, we need to devolve power from Washington back to the states and localities, where voters have at least some measure of influence on their elected officials.

Why should the politicians most removed from our control--Washington congressmen--take the biggest bite out of our wallet? What possible rationale exists for sending tax dollars from our own states to Congress, knowing that Congress intends to take a cut and then ship the money back, with added mandates to control how we spend it?

The best way to stop Don Young and his ilk from wasting our money is to never let them get their slimy little fingers on it to begin with. Granted, our state representatives aren't always so stellar. But they are closer to us, we can often talk to them face to face; they are more vulnerable at the polls because the advantages of incumbency are less; and, in 24 states, we have the citizen initiative process to overrule them.

Second, we need term limits. Term limits could be justified merely as a way to punish the likes of Don Young, but that's never been the chief animator of the term limits movement. The impact of term limits is in changing incentives, and nowhere would it reverse the incentives more than in our pork-barreling Congress.

The longer people stay in Congress, the more they tax and spend. Why? Because they realize their personal power and influence is directly tied to the power and control exercised by the federal government. The longer they stay, the more spending millions and billions and trillions of other people's money becomes ho-hum.

Would Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa have suggested in his first term that taxpayers should spend $50 million to build a rain forest in Iowa? But after 24 years in the Senate, he was no longer too shy to send us the bill.

It is no accident that porkers like Don Young, Ted Stevens, and Charles Grassley have been in Congress for decades, as regular readers of my free Common Sense e-letter know well. Meanwhile, the very best friend of the taxpayer--according to the National Taxpayers Union--is Jeff Flake of Arizona, who has pledged to serve no more than three terms in the Congress.

People who rip off the taxpayers are called crooks. What do you call a congressman who charges $320 million for two bridges to nowhere?

Another great reason for term limits.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.