The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Give ’em the damn money

April 25, 2006

Rep. Charles H. Taylor (R-N.C.) decides to take a ‘principled stand’ and is holding up $10 million dollars necessary to buy the land where a monument to the passengers and crew members of United Flight 93 is to be built.

Why is Taylor, chairman of the House Interior Appropriations subcommittee, holding up the funds?

For Taylor, a large landowner in the mountains of western North Carolina, the issue comes down to principle: The federal government is already the largest landowner in the country, and he believes that no additional tax dollars should go to more land buying for this or any other memorial. Beyond that, the families have committed to raising half the $60 million needed to build the memorial but so far have raised $7.5 million. Taylor is concerned that the federal government will be left holding the bag.

GOP aides familiar with the issue said Taylor’s resolute stance made sense shortly after passage in 2002 of an act authorizing the memorial. The original designs were expansive, the acreage perhaps excessive, and there were real questions about how many tourists would visit the remote site in Somerset County. Taylor infuriated some Flight 93 family members by suggesting a more fitting tribute would be a scholarship fund.

Let me get this straight. Taylor thinks thegovernmentt needs to stop spending money on land and the funding of new memorials because it’s potentially expensive and people likely would not travel to such a remote site. Expensive and remote–you mean like a road to nowhere that Taylor is pushing for at the cost of $604 million? Taylor claims the road will stimulate the economic fortunes of the area. Well, here are some numbers:

The population of Swain County, NC is about 13,000. The cost of the bridge is about $45,000 per capita. The total personal income in Swain County is about $225,000. The total personal income would have to double for 2667 years (ignoring discounted future values) before the bridge project would pay off for Swain County, and this is ignoring that economic impacts may simply rob other counties or regions of income (i.e., GDP won’t rise because of this bridge).

Such a boondoggle is actually more expensive (in both absolute and per capita terms) then Sen. Ted Stevens’ “bridge to nowhere” ($223 million, $27,700 per person in the region). The proposed funding to acquire the land for the Flight 93 memorial amounts to 1/60th of Taylor’s proposed road in NC and 1/280,000th (or .0004 percent) of the $2.8 trillion proposed federal budget. Not 4%, but .0004%. But just as long as the federal government isn’t buying land then I guess Taylor’s pork–I mean, project–is okay.

I don’t mind the government scrutinizing funding requests and I don’t mind it showing some fiscal discipline every once and a (very long) while, but let’s be serious here. The memorial isn’t exorbitant, nor is it trivial; it will serve as a reminder of the incredible courage displayed by those passengers and crew members who sacrificed themselves on that terrible morning. Principles are at the heart of this debate, I just happen to think that Taylor is ‘championing’ the wrong one.

If you would like to contact Congressman Taylor feel free to call, write, or email him using the information listed below.

Congressman Charles H. Taylor
339 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-6401
Fax: (202) 226-6422
To send an electronic letter click here

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Petti is Associate Director of Insights and Analytics at Alexion . Previously, he served as Lead Data Scientist in the Decision Sciences group at Maritz Motivation and a Global Data Strategist and Subject Matter Expert for Gallup.