They don’t call Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi the “King of Pork” for nothing. According to the Mississippi Conservative Daily, in the year before Congressional budget earmarks were banned in 2010, “Cochran sponsored or co-sponsored 243 earmarks for nearly half a billion dollars, ranking him first out of 100 Senators. The year before, he sponsored 259 earmarks for more than $1.2 billion, including the single largest earmark in history, a $439 million project to restore the barrier islands off the Mississippi Gulf Coast, after taxpayers had already provided $80 billion in Katrina relief.”
That Cochran is a Republican may surprise some given his party is stridently vocal in pushing for “fiscal responsibility,” but not me. Doling out goodies to the locals has been a time-tested strategy for winning votes and perpetuating one’s longevity in Congress; makes no difference the party or ideological affinity. Talk is cheap – Congressional bullshit isn’t.
This past week Senator Cockroach pulled off another Santa Claus coup: securing $640 million funding for building a brand new cutter for the Coast Guard which they’ve said publicly they do not need. (Sidebar: if the estimate is $640 million today, you can be fairly certain the final bill will top $900 million by the time the unwanted cutter is christened.) According to a Coast Guard spokesman, “If we are funded for it and Congress says you are going to have a ninth cutter, I guess that is how it goes, but we are good with eight.” A flak for the King of Pork, his nose growing as he uttered the words, said, “Is this wasteful and unnecessary spending? No.” Maybe he missed the Office of Management & Budget memo which specifically called the ship “an unnecessary acquisition.” (Read the memo here. )
Susan Collins from Maine, another Republican Senator, similarly passed out the pork in this week’s approved budget, ensuring that a cool billion was inserted for another destroyer that the Navy didn’t ask for. The thing I find bizarre is that both these unwanted and unnecessary vessels will be fabricated in the very states the Senators represent – truly an amazing coincidence.
Cochran and Collins come from states that for years have consistently sucked out more federal tax dollars than their citizens pay in. Last year, Mississippi received almost $2 for every dollar paid in; Maine got $1.53 for every dollar. As it turns out, the biggest net beneficiaries of federal tax dollar allocations are mostly states that trend Republican; states whose populace and Congressional representatives rail most stridently against government spending. On the flip side, Democratic-leaning states like New York, New Jersey and California receive far less than their citizens pay in. New Yorkers get back 58 cents for a dollar, New Jersey gets 42 cents, California, 67 cents.
Exhibiting classic gall, the loudest critics of redistributing wealth are those who benefit most from it.
Here’s a suggestion: Force the Navy to buy $500 million worth of Trojan extra-ribbed condoms (made by New Jersey’s own Dwight & Church Co.)
Adventures in Eating
Not so long ago, Wall Street was gushing over Chipotle Mexican Grill for its sterling execution in the so-called “fast casual” restaurant category. Gen-x’ers and Millennials were said to vastly favor the supposedly fresh ingredients and fair-trade practices over the greasy fare at joints like McDonalds and Burger King. The company has opened hundreds of outlets all over the country, and since going public at $45 a share in 2007, Chipotle stock has traded as high as $742. Until recently, that is. In the past six months, Chipotle stock has lost $250 a share. I guess that’s what happens when you continually poison your customers.
- In October, Chipotle closed 43 restaurants in the Pacific Northwest after several patrons were sickened by an e. coli outbreak. There have also been outbreaks in California, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
- After 136 Boston College students fell ill from norovirus contracted at a Chipotle in early December, the fast casual pioneer temporarily closed the restaurant.
- On December 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified Chipotle that they were investigating five cases of E. coli in Kansas, Oklahoma and North Dakota. These individuals ate at two Chipotle locations between November 14 and November 23.
This last notice came directly from Chipotle Mexican Grill’s website devoted to supplying the latest poop on Chipotle eating disasters. I especially like their Frequently Asked Questions section. One example:
Q: I got sick the last time I ate your food. What should I do?
A: Anytime you are sick or experiencing unusual symptoms, you should visit your doctor.
Or if Chipotle’s website doesn’t entertain you enough, you can try out Barfblog for more in-depth perspective.
Strangely, the solution to the problems of Chipotle Mexican Grill is right in their name. Just rearrange the letters:
X Milling the E Coli Crap