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Some conservative policies confuse me

By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor
2/28/11
So I really want to better understand the current philosophies that are guiding our elected officials but I do have some trouble digesting it all.
For example, in a story written by Paul Schmelzer and published by the Minnesota Independent (http://minnesotaindependent.com) on Feb. 18, he reported, "Seeking to stop the Pentagon from using taxpayer funds to sponsor NASCAR — and earning a death threat along the way — Rep. Betty McCollum sponsored an amend-ment to ban such funding. By a House vote of 148 to 281, that measure failed on Friday afternoon.
"The St. Paul Democrat called the expenditure of $7 million by the Department of Defense on NASCAR an 'absurdity,' especially in times of government budget deficits and belt tightening," he continued.
McCollum released a statement that she "intends to introduce legislation to prohibit taxpayer funds from being used for sponsorship of race cars, dragsters, Indy cars and motorcycle racing, as well as repeal the $45 million special tax earmark for NASCAR and race track owners included in the 2010 law that extended the Bush tax cuts and added $858 billion to the federal budget deficit."
I was under the impression that people wanted to root out unnecessary expenses in this political climate and lower government spending. Granted in the scheme of federal budgets $7 million isn't all that much, but I know a couple of municipalities that would be happy getting a piece of that pie.
So why is $7 million of our defense budget going to NASCAR?
The Huffington Post has reported that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's efforts to remove collective bargaining rights from union employees could result in the loss of tens of millions of dollars in federal transportation funding. According to the updated story by Sam Stein posted on Feb. 23, there has since been an effort to amend Walker's legislation so the state would not lose the money.
So again, I'm confused — it's better to risk needed infrastructure money in the effort to bust unions?
If the Tea Party movement was truly about questioning the role of government, wouldn't members of that movement be interested in how states lost pension funds to begin with? After all, we've been told the reason Walker is so intent on his efforts is that Wisconsin's budget problems include an under-funded state pension system.
Perhaps because of my job, I always want to know the back-story. A stroll around the Web shows many stories that describe how Wall Street pension managers essentially gambled away some states' money with bad investments.
So is this an opportunity to speak about how to avoid this kind of event from happening again? I would think so.
Wouldn't my conservative friends call for the prosecution of people who drained these accounts for their own gain? Isn't this a topic that should unite anyone interested in government reform, left or right? I would like to think so.
I suppose it's all about motives. Looking at another Huffington Post story, the Pew Research Center has released a comprehensive study (http://downloads.pewcenteronthestates.org/The_Trillion_Dollar_Gap_final.pdf) on state pensions systems and has ranked Wisconsin as a "solid performer." Massachusetts is ranked, by the way, as state with "serious concerns."
So if Wisconsin doesn't have the problems we have been hearing about, then is Walker's agenda one simply of union busting? It would appear so to me.
The great Chicago newspaperman Finley Peter Dunne wrote a series of columns in the voice of a fictional Irish-American saloon-keeper named Mr. Dooley. Dunne was quite quotable and had Dooley say the following that is still political wisdom a century later: "A lie with a purpose is one of the worst kind, and the most profitable."
Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.
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