Paul Jacob

How do you build a monument to a senator?

Well, you whittle away everything that doesn’t look like a senator.

Unfortunately, statuary is out of fashion. Today’s trendiest and most powerful senators don’t want their likeness carved — they want to carve huge chunks out of the federal budget to devote to their gigantic projects.

Take Senate President pro tempore emeritus Ted Stevens. We can forgive the indecency of an airport named after him — perhaps. It was, after all, the Alaska State Legislature that changed the name of the Anchorage International Airport to the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, after Stevens survived a plane crash there, losing his first wife in the tragedy. It’s harder to forgive the current Senate President pro tempore, Robert Byrd, for all the buildings and bridges and such named after him. He worked hard in the Senate to put his grandiose projects up, to his own . . . unintended ignominy.

But let’s not be too easy on Ted. The man has done so much for pork barrel spending in his state he might as well be dubbed Snorts Cooper. Alaskans, known for their hardy individualism, are the biggest recipients of federal largesse in the union. And it is Ted Stevens who did this for them; it is Ted Stevens who turned the The Last Frontier into the current Queen of Federal Project Welfare. (Though let us not forget his great ally in this, his younger colleague, Don Young. Young, Alaska’s sole House rep, has tried mightily to out-pork Stevens, and has been instrumental in bringing some of Stevens’s more recent porkfest projects to fruition, or at least notoriety.)

The two shining examples of Stevens’s attitude towards federal spending are the notorious Gravina Island Bridge and Knik Arm Bridge projects, the infamous “bridges to nowhere.” Not only were they unnecessary, and not only were they to be paid for by American taxpayers at large rather than the state taxpayers who might be said (with some laxity) to benefit from said bridges, Ted Stevens also insisted, in 2005, that they still be funded even after Hurricane Katrina damaged parts of the Louisiana infrastructure that desperately needed help in repair.

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.