Lincoln * Institute

Ralph R. Reiland

Ralph R. Reiland

The B. Kenneth Simon Professor of Free Enterprise at Robert Morris University

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Reflections

Of Mice and Pork

by Ralph R. Reiland
 

Lucky for a certain mouse, he resides in Nancy Pelosi's district and has a good shot at getting some of the recently passed $787 billion stimulus bill.

The rodent on the way to hitting the jackpot is a Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse, a resident of the marshes of the San Francisco Bay and officially classified as endangered at both the federal and state levels.

The scientific name of the Harvest Mouse is Reithrodontomys Raviventris, which means "groove-toothed mouse with a red belly.." That's how one gets to be officially "endangered," by having a belly that's not the same old brown as the millions of other rats and mice that we go after with traps and d-CON.

Actually, now that we're in a culture where people can make big money by naming colors for Ralph Lauren (his purple is "Summer Phlox"), the belly color of the Harvest Mouse, previously just "red," is now more artistically described by the nation's mouse guardians as "cinnamon pink."

The stimulus money for the Harvest Mouse is part of the $30 million in "shovel-ready" projects that the California Coastal Conservancy has submitted to various federal agencies for habitat enhancement.

The Harvest Mouse doesn't get all the money, explains Coastal Commission staffer Steve Ritchie. The commission's proposed spending of taxpayers' millions on habitat protection will also benefit egrets and salmon. One problem is that egrets like to eat mice for breakfast, cinnamon-bellied or not.

The jobs created by this $30 million? Other than the eight government workers it might take to stick a "Protected Habitat" sign in the mud, there's no real job creation, nothing to make America more competitive in the global economy or to encourage job-creating entrepreneurship. We'd be better off if the government got out of the way and a good seafood restaurant was built on the bay, creating jobs for construction workers, chefs, waiters, cashiers and bartenders. The mice could run off when they hear the bulldozers approaching.

Better yet, the $30 million could be given back in tax cuts to the people who earned it, so they could buy cars or pay their mortgages or fill up the area's increasingly-empty malls.

What doesn't work in creating real jobs is pork, the spending of billions (and now trillions) of taxpayers' dollars on inefficient government projects that create, at best, temporary make-work jobs.

Worse yet in terms of ineptitude, waste, bureaucratic arrogance and irrational priorities is a government that sees nothing wrong with spending millions on the habitat of allegedly at-risk mice while people are losing their homes.

Unfortunately, the recognition that we have a government that puts the supposed needs of a rodent ahead of the real needs of its own citizens will come as no surprise to those who are familiar with the case of the young firefighters who died in 2001 because their survival was granted a lower priority than the theoretical well-being of some trout and salmon.

"Four trapped firefighters fighting a blaze in Washington state burned to death on July 10, 2001, as permission to draw water from nearby Chewuch River was withheld for nine hours by officials fearful that protected salmon and trout might get scooped up," reported Investor's Business Daily.

"An elite firefighting crew had initially brought the fire under control at 9 a.m...," explained James M. Taylor in Environment and Climate News. "With water delivery due within the hour, the situation was deemed safe for a relatively inexperienced crew. The helicopter, however, was delayed several hours while Forest Service officials debated the environmental ramifications of scooping water from the nearby Chewuch River, home to endangered salmon and trout. Forest Service officials feared that scooping river water might accidently scoop up some fish as well."

Government officials debated until 2 p.m. The first helicopter with water arrived after 3 p.m., too late to control a fire that had gained new life. By 5 p.m. four young firefighters were corned in a narrow canyon and engulfed in flames.

The dead: Tom Craven, 30, a former college football player, was an 11-year veteran of firefighting; Karen Fitzpatrick, 18, had just graduated from high school; Jessica Johnson, 19, a college rugby player, was spending her summer on the fire lines; Devin Weaver, 21, was taking a break from his family's small business to fight fires.

And this is the government we're going to trust to redesign our cars and run the nation's health care system?

Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.

E-mail: rrreiland@aol.com

Phone: 412-884-4541 / Cell: 412-527-2199