Rich Tucker

These are difficult times to be a liberal. On issue after issue, they’re outflanked by conservative ideas and hampered by their own lack of ideas.

With Social Security, liberals oppose personal accounts and progressive indexing. The only liberal idea introduced this year is Rep. Robert Wexler’s plan to increase taxes. There’s an idea that’s never failed in the past.

On judges, too, liberals have no meaningful comments.

They claim to oppose judges who are “out of the mainstream,” but don’t define “mainstream.” They filibuster judges who are so radical that they’d enjoy majority support in the Senate if they received an up-or-down vote.

But we’ve finally found a liberal big idea: Spend more money on homeland security.

“The simple fact is that the Bush administration has refused to make the needed investments to secure American cities and towns,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid announced. Democrats, he says, “are determined to do everything we can to protect America from terrorism by making the much-needed investments in rail security, protecting chemical plants and fully equipping our first responders.” That could mean up to $1 billion in new spending.

But simply spending more money isn’t a plan -- it shows the lack of a plan. There’s no shortage of cash sloshing around already. So much cash, in fact, that authorities can’t spend it all.
The New York Daily News recently reported that, of some $600 million set aside in 2002 by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to increase security, only $30 million has been spent. That means about $570 million should already be available to help protect New York City’s subways and buses, even if the federal government doesn’t come up with another cent. But it will.

Department of Homeland Security spokesman Marc Short says about $150 million will be distributed to transportation systems in the next week or so. And, he notes, DHS has spent only about half of the $8.6 billion Congress has already allocated in homeland security grants.

Unfortunately, when we race to spend money, we often end up throwing it away. The Washington Post uncovered a confidential government audit that showed more than $300 million in unnecessary spending in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The paper reported that subcontractors “spent $1,180 for 20 gallons of coffee at one hotel, $8,100 for elevator operators at another and $377,000 in long-distance phone calls.” Another subcontractor claimed a $5.4 million salary for nine months work.

Rich Tucker

Rich Tucker is a communications professional and a columnist for