Prioritizing pork

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The Washington Post has a story today, by Jonathan Weisman, about Rep. Charles H. Taylor, R-N.C., and his efforts to block funding for what could add up to being a $60 million tab for building a memorial to Flight 93, which crashed in a central Pennsylvania field after a group of passengers rushed the cockpit to wrestle control of the plane from the al Qaeda hijackers:

But for three years, that field has made do with a makeshift monument while one member of Congress, Rep. Charles H. Taylor (R-N.C.), has blocked a $10 million request to buy the land for a permanent memorial to the 40 passengers and crew members who overpowered hijackers bent on crashing their jet into the Capitol or the White House….

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For Taylor, a large landowner in the mountains of western Carolina, the issue comes down to principle: The federal government is already the largest landowner in the country, and he believes that no additional tax dollars should go to more land buying for this or any other memorial. Beyond that, the families have committed to raising half the $60 million needed to build the memorial but so far have raised $7.5 million. Taylor is concerned that the federal government will be left holding the bag.

Now, aside from the idea that it may be preferable for the Flight 93 Memorial to privately funded–given that the event stands as a rather stark reminder of the shortcomings of government and the importance of an engaged citizenry–it’s interesting to note that Rep. Taylor’s principles don’t get in the way of earmarking funds for his own district. I spent a little time browsing through Taylor’s Web site to see what projects measure up to his principles when it comes to federal spending. Some highlights from the current Congress:

$250,000 for a local nonprofit, Eblen Charities; $500,000 for the creation of Grove Arcade ArtSpace, an exhibition and art gallery; $86,620 to extend a local sewer line; $1,000,000 for a new Community Wellness Center for Madison County, which will include an indoor swimming pool; $2.4 million to study the destructive effects of the southern pine beetle; $200,000 to open a store selling retail crafts; $125,558 to replace a half mile of storm drains; $101,353 to buy new buses for Asheville, N.C.; $245,516 for a local nonprofit, Eblen Charities, to build its own headquarters, plus $8 million in federal loans for same; $1 million to pay for a center to help North Carolina’s wine industry; $2.6 million for a local defense contractor, 3TEX.

Then there’s the small matter of the $200 to $300 million he’s requested for the Appalachian Highway project (which doesn’t appear to have been included in the 2005 transportation bill).

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