The Closet Moderate: Expanding waste

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Expanding waste

My latest gripe about American governance concerns the stimulus. No, not that it's too big -- that's a lost cause -- nor that it's taking too long -- the only thing government can do quickly is tax you or jail you -- but rather the quality of the spending. Look at the stuff they're spending money on: job retraining, which we now know is worthless; plugging holes in states' budgets, which only delays the states' legislators comeuppance for their spendthrift ways; and of course the big government favorite, more welfare.

What will be left in three or four years to show for this money? Nothing. Compare that with the spending of the O.G. of stimulus, FDR. When Roosevelt and his allies in Congress opened up the public fisc, they were just as good at spending as Obama and the modern-day Democrats. But look at what they spent it on: roads, schools, post offices, and other government buildings. They may not have been necessary, but at least the government had something to show for it when they were through. Like many of our tens of readers out there, I went to school in a WPA-built building that was both functional and attractive. And what's more, the New Deal jobs might have been make-work jobs, but at least they encouraged work. I prefer make-work to make-sloth.

So, what's the point? What awesome project should our deficit trillions fund? What would be both useless and spectacular, a joy to future generations? The answer is obvious ...
...a summer capital.

The answer came to me as I read Holy Cow, a travelogue by an Australian in India. The author, Sarah MacDonald, described visiting the city of Simla, which was once the summer capital of British India, a place to which the Raj retreated from the summer heat of Calcutta. Eleven hundred miles away in the Himalayas, Simla provided a welcome relief from the god-awful summer heat of the Ganges Delta.

It made me think: what other capital is beastly hot during the summer? Exactly -- anyone who has lived in D.C. can see the logic of this immediately. So why not extend Interstate 66 up into the hills of West Virginia and found there, somewhere around Hardy County, a new city. Build a little capitol, little President's house, little train station, little lobbyists' offices, and all that. They could do it up in Victorian style, like a quiet small city that gets invaded by a plague of politicians every summer. They could even found a college there, or a branch of WVU, maybe, so that there would be people there in the other nine months.

It sounds crazy, but if they're going to spend billions trillions, at least spend them on something that will last and might even serve a purpose. Let's not forget that our real capital was built in a new location where no city existed. And, after a hundred years or so, it became quite livable. And just as our first, working capital was named after our first President, let's name our second, unnecessary capital after the President who made unnecessary spending a part of the American Dream. Instead of sweating it out in malarial Washington, let's have our next stimulus bill passed from the breezy heights of Roosevelt, West Virginia.

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