Thursday, July 31, 2008

Why "Uncle Ted" Was There

Image credit: Screenshot of this YouTube by Cujo359.

The Washington Post wrote this about Sen. Ted Stevens today, about Alaska in the aftermath of Stevens' indictment:

In his almost 40 years in the Senate, the octogenarian Republican in many ways defined the shape of the Last Frontier, not least by using his perch on the Appropriations Committee to ensure that his state's tiny population remained the nation's richest in federal spending per capita. More than $9 billion arrived in Alaska from Washington in 2006, twice as much as a decade earlier.

So it was perhaps to be expected that many here greeted the news of Stevens's indictment on corruption charges as if they were condemned to a pauper's death, fearful that they will no longer be able to depend on the largess of "Uncle Ted."

"There's no good that will come of this," said Jim Whitaker, a Republican who left the state legislature to combat the corrupt oil services company whose taint threatens to bring down Stevens. "For those of us who've been involved with politics in Alaska, one of the paradigms that we counted on in terms of funding public policy was the capability of Ted Stevens.

Alaskans Fret About a Future Without Help From 'Uncle Ted'

It's not hard to figure out why Alaskans were so uninterested in the stories of Stevens' corruption. He brought home the bacon in prodigious quantities. Whoever Stevens' successor is in the Senate, whether that's Mark Begich or someone else, will have to deal with some serious expectations of continued federal funding. The state's economy will have a hard time recovering if he doesn't.

How his successors will deal with that will be interesting for both Alaskans and the rest of us.

This, as libertarians are fond of pointing out, is one of the downsides of federal spending. When influence shifts in DC, things can go badly for states like Alaska. It's no secret that one of the reasons the budget is what it is, with so many wasteful and misspent projects. What's more, that funding becomes a trap for the people receiving it - the constituencies grow dependent on continued funding. Until we can figure out a way to make things like earmarks go away, this will continue.

Ted Stevens may be gone, but there will be someone there to replace him.

1 comment:

Dana Hunter said...

The bacon? Good gods, the man brought home entire pigs.