To Reid: Nevadans like their meat, serve it up
The ink on Sen. Harry Reid’s promotion to majority leader in U.S. Senate has barely dried and already he is under attack from self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives who say he will likely abuse his new power by diverting millions of federal dollars to Nevada where they will be wasted on unnecessary projects known around the beltway as “pork.”
No question Reid – and therefore Nevada – was one of the chief beneficiaries of the political landslide that took away both houses of Congress and gave control back to the Democrats for the first time in 12 years. That’s the way it goes in this republic of ours … to the victors go the spoils.
Reid was elected by the residents of Nevada to carry their interests forward in the nation’s capital. If he can do that better now because his colleagues also elected him to be their leader, so much the better for the folks back home.
The watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) ridiculed Reid as one of the country’s top “porkers” in their annual “Pig Book” that ranks legislators according to the amount of federal spending they directed to their home states. In the latest report, Nevada was ranked eighth, thanks to $475 million in federal funding that Reid steered to Nevada.
Reid, with help from fellow Nevada Sen. John Ensign, a Republican, has steered a lot of federal dollars to Northern Nevada: $3.7 million for lands, conservation and water projects and $750,000 for erosion control in the Waterfall fire area. Statewide there is $1.8 million to control cheatgrass and tamarisk; and $150,000 to control mormon crickets.
Another $8 million came for water and land projects, including $400,000 to replace a ruptured sewer line in Douglas County and $50,000 for the new pump to move water from Marlette to Carson and Virginia cities. He can also be credited for an increase this year in federal highway funding from $199 million to $260 million, including money for Interstate 580 and the Carson City freeway. And this is only a partial list.
These projects may look like “pork” or “waste” to political pundits back in Washington, D.C., but they look more like necessities in Nevada.
Of course sound bytes like “pigs” and “piglets” and “pork” and “porkers” and “prime cuts” and “Byrd droppings” – buzzwords used by the folks at the watchdog group – make for colorful quotes, but they don’t do much to advance intelligent public discourse. Ironically, the group is a nonprofit organization that claims to save $9 in taxes for every dollar it receives in donations. Isn’t it ironic that an organization whose mission is saving taxpayers money does not itself pay taxes? Now that’s what we call pork, not to mention hypocrisy.
Sen. Reid may be a “porker” in CAGW’s Pig Book, but in our book he’s frugal to the point of being a piker. In fact, he’s got some heavy lifting to do to move Nevada toward parity with other states, tax-wise. That’s because Nevada is a “donor” state, according the Tax Foundation, another nonprofit watchdog organization that isn’t paying any taxes. Nevada only gets back 73 cents for every $1 its residents pay in federal taxes – 45th worst in the nation, compared to some “recipient” states that get back more than they put into the federal kitty. Most people would fire their stockbroker for losing 27 cents of every dollar.
The watchdog organizations can call it “pork” if they like, but they get paid to make those statements with dollars from pockets lined with tax-exempt donations. We prefer to think of it as ROI – Return On Investment – and Nevada isn’t getting its fair share.
This editorial first appeared in the
Lahontan Valley News