Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sarah Palin and the bridge to nowhere...

As you may be aware, there's been plenty of controversy in Alaska over federal earmarks and the so-called "bridge to nowhere" (though in Alaska, particularly on the islands the bridge was meant to link, at least some of the controversy surrounds having their community called "nowhere"!). Saying no to the "bridge to nowhere" was a huge part of the Sarah Palin unveiling, and I find the whole thing fascinating.

The first thing, not terribly shocking or impactful but humorous given the historical context, is that Palin was for the "bridge to nowhere" before she was against it.

Funny. (though again, probably not terribly important...).

What I find absolutely fascinating though is that while the construction of the bridge was cancelled, the state of Alaska STILL GOT ALL THE EARMARKED MONEY! As Republican (and former Palin campaign coordinator) Mike Elerding put it, "She said 'thanks but no thanks,' but they kept the money." So, Palin standing up to the bridge is not exactly the great crusade against federal earmarks that it appears. She stopped the BRIDGE. Her government still GOT the money.

And what did they do with the money? Well I'm sure a lot of it went to useful infrastructure improvements (still, arguably, a waste of federal dollars... giving federal funds to a state rolling in oil and gas royalties so they can build roads on the federal dime while dolling out rebate cheques to their citizens from the state's bulging coffers... but at least it's not a "bridge to nowhere").

However, what's truly great about the story is that Palin spent tens of millions of the ear mark, wait for it... BUILDING THE ROAD THAT'S MEANT TO LINK UP TO THE BRIDGE. I mean, at least the bridge didn't LITERALLY go nowhere. It was meant to connect two islands. The road on the other hand just stops where the bridge was supposed to be. It LITERALLY goes nowhere. And why are they building it? Well, because unlike the money for the bridge, which Alaska gets to keep even if they don't build the bridge, the money for the access road would have to be returned to the federal government if it wasn't used for the road.

So they built the road.

It's classic, and hardly the vision of a principled stance taken against federal largess. Palin decided to stop the bridge after campaigning for Governor on a "build the bridge" platform. Then, she kept the earmark from the feds to spend on other projects. And the parts of the earmark she wasn't allowed to redirect elsewhere? She kept that too, and spent it on things like the road it was originally earmarked for.

A "road to nowhere".

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