Monday, August 06, 2007

Politics as usual

American public schools are not performing poorly because they are underfunded. Likewise, bridges are not collapsing because surface transportation is underfunded. Rather, both are funded via a wasteful political process.

No one knows how many earmarks there are pending in Congress at any moment. Some say as many as 32,000. It is safe to say that these projects are not the ones favored because they scored high on any benefit-cost analysis.

But whenever there is a calamity such as the collapse of the I-35W in Minnesota, there will be the drumbeat to spend more -- but without any discussion of how to spend better or where to trim.

Randal O'Toole reports that it is even worse because bureaucracies move very slowly. Even when funds are allocated to worthy projects, there is usually a very slow and cumbersome process. Twenty years can pass between approval and actuality.

Just like the income tax, arcana and unnecessary complexity are supposed to give the impression that there are safeguards against graft and inefficiency.