Paul Jacob

Without career politicians, life itself would be impossible. Or so they would have us think.

Take the recent Washington Post headline: “N. Va. Area Braces for Life After Callahan.”

The paper is talking about Vincent F. Callahan, a local rep in the Virginia House of Delegates for the last 40 years. That’s a long time. According to the Post, for the first 30 years this solon was simply “idling in the shadows.”

That’s a long time to idle.

But for the last ten years, Callahan served as chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. During this stretch he played a big role in shipping tax dollars to a whole lot of people.

In the process, Callahan gained a whole bunch of new friends. Who now are really going to miss him.

"It was extraordinary and innovative,” says Robert Templin, the president of Northern Virginia Community Colleges. He's talking about the funding NVCC secured through Callahan’s committee to help train more health professionals.

Must have been a big check.

Terrence Jones, president and chief executive of Wolf Trap, a performing arts center, also spoke of Callahan as “an extraordinary ally.” I guess. The Post reports: “Callahan, who as chairman had the last word on funding of nonstate agencies each year (the equivalent of federal earmarks), inserted more than $3.5 million in the state budget for Wolf Trap in the past three years alone.”

Did Wolf Trap really need the $3.5 million dollars he “inserted” in the budget? They do charge for their shows. A lot. Wasn’t this really $3.5 million to subsidize arts for the area’s wealthier folks?

You may not like earmarks and pork, but it’s certainly true that those receiving the money keep saying, “Thanks a lot.” One thing you can say for them, these special interest beneficiaries certainly are polite.

With the Post’s lionizing of Callahan as money-bringer par excellence, we are led to believe this quite prosperous area of Northern Virginia owes some of its success and wealth to the loot Mr. Callahan has brought back through parochial power politics. But even the paper’s report admits that “Northern Virginia contributes far more tax dollars to state coffers than it gets back. . . .”

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.