Spending for spending’s sake

As a friend of ours noted during a downpour, “That rain looks awfully wet.”

Indeed it was, as has been a lot of the rain this winter. But this particular observation got us to wondering why our government does not have as keen a sense of the obvious as our friend.

As the march toward sequestration continues, we wonder why government doesn’t simply get rid of needless spending.

In August 2010, Republican Sens. Tom Coburn and John McCain released a paper called “Summertime Blues: 100 Stimulus Projects That Give Taxpayers The Blues.” Basically, the paper detailed some dubious projects that were paid for by your stimulus dollars.

For example, many of us would probably not pay to replace the windows in a vacant building. However, the U.S. Forest Service targeted $554,763 to replace the windows in a visitor center at Mount St. Helens in Washington that has been closed since 2007. As of the writing of the two senators’ report, there were no plans for the use of the space.

Or consider the new sidewalk in Boynton, Okla. Boynton was given $89,298 in stimulus funds to replace a quarter-mile of sidewalk. The only problem is that the original sidewalk was built only five years ago. Boynton, therefore, is faced with a project that is, according to one resident, “100 percent a waste of money.”

To top it all off, one end of the sidewalk ends in a ditch.

Or take a look at the nerve of legislators in Kansas. Fourteen years ago, work began on renovating lawmakers’ offices and the statehouse at a cost estimated between $90 million and $120 million. Then they expanded the project, even including a $15 million underground parking garage. According to the report, the architect estimates the price tag will now be “$285 million plus,” adding “I just don’t know what the plus is.”

To help offset that little “plus,” the legislature authorized $39.7 million of Build America Bonds be used.

Now comes the sequester. People will be laid off, vital programs cut. But the boondoggles like those cited in the stimulus report will continue.

(Portions of this editorial have appeared previously in The Maui News.)

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.