Here’s another example of a politician calling for fiscal restraint and spending money like crazy. This time it’s Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY). Cato’s Chris Edwards writes:
Maloney has recently scored $1 million for airport funding, $1.86 million for hurricane clean-up, $130,000 for arts grants, $6.7 million for bike paths, $3.8 million to fix highways, $200,000 for one fire department, and $2.4 million for another one.
My research has found that such federal aid undermines good governance and is often wasteful. The nation would be better off if airports, hurricane clean-up, arts, bike paths, highways, and fire departments were funded locally.
But members of Congress are political entrepreneurs, not policy experts, and they see it differently. Their goal is to get community leaders on their side, and federal aid is a great tool for gaining support from local businesses, arts groups, union heads, mayors, and other people who hold sway in their districts. To politicians and subsidy recipients, Washington is Santa Claus providing free gifts with no apparent costs.
Politicians wrap a narrative around each subsidy program. Most of Maloney’s press releases propagate the idea that federal aid is crucial to jobs and growth. The $2.4 million fire grant was a “strategic investment that not only creates jobs, but adds valuable personnel to make our community safer.” Even the arts grants were “strategic investments in jobs and the Hudson Valley economy.”
However, members know that many citizens are concerned about overspending and rising debt in Washington. So Maloney has a “Budget and Fiscal Responsibility” section on his website. It says “we must get our fiscal house in order. If so many New York families struggle to balance their household budgets, Congress should also live within its means and balance its budget.”
That sounds good. But look right underneath that paean to fiscal rectitude on the same webpage. You will see that Maloney has press releases demanding more spending on seniors’ benefits, unemployment insurance, and numerous other things.