Apparently oblivious to what is not seen, Representative John “I expect to be in the fucking leadership!” Murtha (D-PA) declares that the product of the rent-seeking that occurs in his district is both beneficial and necessary:
Mr. Murtha underscored this point at a breakfast fund-raiser held for him this summer. “This is about jobs,” he told hundreds of military contractors and lobbyists at the Johnstown Convention Center.
But, it’s about jobs, says Murtha. Jobs that he creates by depriving others of their opportunities. This is what is not seen. Every million dollars spent in Johnstown is a million dollars that won’t be spent elsewhere. It is a million dollars that may have been voluntarily invested somewhere else where it would be more efficiently allocated — this much is self-evident; lobbying simply cannot happen in the private sector:
Q: How much would you have to pay me to convince me to give you a million dollars?
A: At least a million dollars.
In the public sector, however, the cost of obtaining someone else’s million dollars is a small fraction of the total sum, at best. Some earmarks are sold for as little as a few thousand dollars.
And no shame has Murtha in either doling out appropriated funds, awarding no-bid contracts, accepting bribes from undercover agents, or testifying against fellow legislators (see: ABSCAM). In fact, “he argues that local lawmakers are best suited to understand the needs of their district,” a point with which I can’t disagree. I do take exception to the quantum leap of logic required to arrive at his conclusion, though — that his intimate knowledge of Johnstown’s situation is somehow capable of superceding the knowledge that other representatives have over their own respective districts. As the Journal notes:
Johnstown’s good fortune has come at the expense of taxpayers everywhere else. Defense contractors have found that if they open an office here and hire the right lobbyist, they can get lucrative, no-bid contracts.
What’s particularly repugnant about the process is the means by which the appropriations are determined. They are funded by taxation, so in effect Murtha is “awarding” a portion of income earned in areas about which he knows practically nothing, to companies who (donate to his campaigns and) locate in his district — the very definition of biased decision making and conflicted interests.