Jeff Adair: Your pork is my valued service

Jeff Adair

When it comes to government spending, as a nation we're kind of schizophrenic. On the one hand, we decry folks who look to the government for "handouts," but when it's our pet project, we call it "services" and cry foul when it's on the chopping block.

Take the Massachusetts state budget cuts for example.

In the next couple weeks as the details of Gov. Patrick's cuts seep in, we'll hear the affected constituencies complain how terrible things will be for their agency and the people whom it serves.

It's happening already. Last Sunday, the Boston Herald ran a front page story on how DCF, formerly DSS, fears cuts will hurt the hundreds of foster kids who turn 18 each year and age out of the system with little or no safety net.

Voicing concerns with the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism taking deep cuts State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, recently told the Berkshire Eagle: "I'm bitterly disappointed."

"We are practically wiping out funding to organizations the (state) supports," he added. "They will have a more difficult time ahead."

Such complaints tend to fall of deaf ears.

"I'm not a foster kid," we say. "And I rarely visit the Berkshires."

But the minute it hits home, it's no longer OK.

It could be a service we use, one that helps a relative, or a job where we work. That's why, for example, police officials are up in arms over the modest changes that allow the use of civilian flaggers at some state construction sites, a practice allowed in 49 other states.

"The plan disregards the public safety," Harold MacGilvray, president of the Massachusetts Municipal Police Coalition wrote in a recent column in the MetroWest Daily News. "There is definable, proven evidence of officers, while on a police detail, tending to medical emergencies, preventing crimes, apprehending criminals and assisting with public safety situations."

On the national level, we moan and groan about waste, how Congress spends our tax dollars on earmarks and pork, like grants to construct bike trails, provide tax breaks for race track owners, or pay for some other project in a far away state that ought to be funded by those who directly benefit.

We complain, until it's our pork. If our rep or senator is not bringing home the goods, be it a Democrat or Republican, out the door he or she goes.

"It's just the way you get re-elected," Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., told USA Today last year.

As the saying goes, ones man's pork is another's bread and butter.

Of course, it happens at the local level as well. Every year around budget season in communities across the Commonwealth, you're bound to find people debating how the schools are receiving either too much money and teachers are overpaid, or too little money.

Who's right?

Who's wrong?

It's not for me alone to say. The question, however, must be answered or we'll forever be at each other's throats since the government can't do everything. If we do noting, we'll wake up one day and wonder how we got in such a mess.

Let the debate begin.

Jeff Adair is a Daily News editor and writer. He can be reached at