Healthy doses of pork in Health care bill

When Congress proposes spending hundreds of billions of dollars on anything, be it health care or some weapons system - there are always a few members perfectly willing to pork up the bill with totally unrelated spending.

Usually, the non-germane items are shoehorned into the bill just to assure that member's vote on the final package. And as is the usual practice, the health care bill has it's fair share of totally useless projects.

Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe has read the health care bill so you don't have to:

Tucked within is a provision that could provide billions of dollars for walking paths, streetlights, jungle gyms, and even farmers' markets. The add-ons - characterized as part of a broad effort to improve the nation's health "infrastructure'' - appear in House and Senate versions of the bill.

Critics argue the provision is a thinly disguised effort to insert pork-barrel spending into a bill that has been widely portrayed to the public as dealing with expanding health coverage and cutting medical costs. A leading critic, Senator Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican, ridicules the local projects, asking: "How can Democrats justify the wasteful spending in this bill?''

But advocates, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, defend the proposed spending as a necessary way to promote healthier lives and, in the long run, cut medical costs. "These are not public works grants; they are community transformation grants,'' said Anthony Coley, a spokesman for Kennedy, chairman of the Senate health committee whose healthcare bill includes the projects.

"If improving the lighting in a playground or clearing a walking path or a bike path or restoring a park are determined as needed by a community to create more opportunities for physical activity, we should not prohibit this from happening,'' Coley said in a statement.

There is not one scintilla of evidence that lighting in a playground reduces health care costs. There is plenty of evidence, however, that the member who gets such goodies for his district can boast about it come election time.

I can't wait for Kranish and other journalists to go through this bill. This time, instead of calling it "porkolicious," let's refer to it as "Porkorama" - just so we can keep it straight in our minds.

Hat Tip: Ed Lasky

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