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Chewing over pork in stimulus package

Pork. All the media hate it. Every voter wants it eliminated. Every politician points to it with alarm and every politician demands it. But what is it?

Pork is like pornography: hard to define, but we know it when we see it. The infamous “bridge to nowhere” always comes to mind.

Scientific studies of the sex life of gnats are representative examples. But the bridge to nowhere had some basis. It not only would have created jobs and pumped money into a local economy, but it actually would have connected two unconnected pieces of land. Who is to say what value that might have had years from now?

Studying the sex life of gnats can teach us about DNA and RNA and animal behavior and a host of other things that one day might become useful in medicine, psychology and studies of evolution. Ultimately, there are no useless scientific projects, and very few useless physical projects.

So what is this “pork” we all love to hate? The best working definition of pork is: Any project in someone else’s district.

Now President Obama has proposed an $820 billion stimulus package and has promised it will not include pork. Part of the package provides help for America’s aging infrastructure: roads, bridges, sewer systems and flood control. How do you fix a road, a bridge, a sewer or a levee without pork?

Part of the stimulus package includes energy help: “clean” coal, wind farms, solar, oil drilling. How do you subsidize a coal-fired generator, build a wind farm, aid solar energy technology and help oil drillers without pork?

Part of the package includes more for food stamps. Is the food stamp program, which some have called wasteful, unsupervised and unfocused, pork?

Part of the stimulus package includes job training for the unemployed. How do you build such facilities and pay for teachers without pork?

Part of the package includes tax credits for college tuition. How do you help pay for someone’s college education without pork?

The list goes on and on, with the point being, stimulus packages inherently are pork, and pork stimulates, not only by pumping needed money into a money-starved economy, but by supporting projects only the federal government can afford.

So the next time you read or hear about “evil” pork, remember this: It stimulates the economy, it probably accomplishes something of value and the federal government can afford unlimited amounts of it.

The problem with Obama’s proposal is not that it contains pork. The problem is it is too little, too late.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

Wilmette, Ill.

The buck stops . . . where it’s doing no good

As a concerned citizen, I would like to know why our U.S. government is $10.7 trillion in debt.

Congress has the constitutional power to “coin money and regulate the value thereof” (for any medium of exchange needed by the people). Why then does Congress authorize borrowing from banks, other private or foreign investors for any government needs?

Why cannot the U.S. Treasury be authorized by Congress to pay direct to the people any money needed for Social Security, other entitlements or war services? There would be no interest charged for taxpayers to pay on this $10.7 trillion debt, if it were settled with Treasury notes.

There would be no further government borrowing if Congress created the money through the U.S. Treasury, it appears to me.

Each Congress since the beginning has had the power and the duty to create sound money for the people under public control as a public utility, like electricity at the switch, or water at the faucet.

However, we are witnessing what lobbying can do to put our most-needed public utility into private control.

Can we, as the voting people of our country, lobby this Congress to give us relief from the debt burden we are under?

Al Schmitz

Sidney, Mont.

Yoo-hoo, Netanyahu: Israel needs resolute leader

The near-term military goal of Israel should be to utterly destroy the terrorist group Hamas.

Yet, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his ruling Kadima Party have implemented a unilateral cease-fire (similar to how they left their 2006 offensive against terrorist group Hezbollah unfinished). Olmert’s hesitation is due to his moral uncertainty.

Olmert and Kadima should be voted out of power. Only somebody with the moral certainty to vigorously fight evil deserves to be in power. Of Israel’s most prominent politicians, the closest to this description is former prime minister and current opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mark Kalinowski

New York, N.Y.

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