It is the time of year when Hollywood pats itself on the back honoring its own with everything from the People's Choice Awards to the Oscars. And so it is time to revive the annual Pennsylvania tradition of giving the "Golden Snout" awards to those politicians and government officials who feast most deeply at the public trough.
This year's Golden Snouts (hereinafter known as the "Snoutie") has a theme. With bail-out mania gripping Pennsylvania and the nation all the categories have been renamed to honor those who are working the hardest to take advantage of the nation's economic ills to grab as much bail-out money as possible for their own special interests.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, the 2009 Golden Snout winners:
Biggest Wish List Award— This "Snoutie" goes to Harrisburg Mayor Stephen R. Reed who crafted a $700 million wish list comprising more than 30 special projects to be funded under the new bail-out plan. Included on his list is a request for more than $ 2 million for LED bus stop signs. Exactly how that will unfreeze the credit markets and jump start the economy was not explained.
Best Return on Investment Award— Department store mogul Al Boscov contributed $130,000 to Governor Ed Rendell's campaign. Now he has gotten a $35 million taxpayer-backed loan to buy back his namesake chain of stores which new owners had driven into bankruptcy. Of course (wink, wink) there was no link between the campaign contribution and the bail-out. Governor Ed Rendell said the loan was given upon "recommendations from top advisors," whom he appointed.
Digging Out of the Biggest Hole Award— And the winner is . . . the North Shore Connector in Pittsburgh. After deciding to spend $435 million on a hole in the ground so pedestrians can walk under the Allegheny River from downtown to the North Shore stadiums, cost over-runs have ground the project to a halt. A spokesman for the project says the boondoggle won't be completed unless $117 million in bail-out money is forthcoming.
Keith Olbermann Award— In runaway balloting, the Philadelphia Inquirer grabs the gold for allegedly trying to obtain a $10 million bailout from the state. The news media generally values its independence from government and politicians. But, but a state government bail-out would have turned the state's largest circulation newspaper into a bigger cheerleader for Ed Rendell than MSNBC's Keith Olbermann is for Barack Obama. No word on whether Inquirer officials will accept the award from Rendell during the next Eagle's post game show to be broadcast on the state subsidized Comcast network.
Brotherly Love Award— Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter loves his city's retirees so much he is asking the federal government for $650 million to help bail-out the pension system. The pension fund, like virtually every other pension fund in the world, has lost money recently. That's not all; joining with fellow mayors Nutter wants a $50 billion bail-out of the nation's cities. Nutter claims this is a "hand up" not a "hand out." Let's just give him a hand for winning the "Snoutie."
Keystone Kop Award— Pennsylvania's state budget deficit is now approaching $2 billion and could balloon closer to the $3 billion level by the time the fiscal year ends on June 30th. Governor Ed Rendell is looking to Congress for the money. Rendell gets this "Snoutie" for having first asked for help from Washington last October when Congress was dealing with the last bail-out. Who else would ask for pothole repair money while the nation teetered on the brink of financial collapse?
Left Holding the Bag Award— This special award goes to the lowly taxpayer who will have to foot the bill for all this "bail-out" spending. Unlike the other awards, this one can be passed down from generation to generation as our children and grandchildren will be paying for this year's Golden Snout spending spree long after we are gone.
And so we end the 2009 Golden Snout awards. Once again, these awards prove the degree to which government officials and even some in the private sector simply don't get it. During tough economic times the prudent course would be to cut spending and tighten our belts. Instead, our so-called leaders take the easy route of asking someone else to bail-out them out so they don't have to make the tough decisions. It is nothing more than the world's biggest Ponzi scheme, because eventually there won't be enough people paying for those who are spending.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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