It’s not the pork that stinks

IT’S NOT THE PORK THAT STINKS…. John McCain recently published a list of the top 10 most wasteful expenditures he (or someone on his staff) could find. I think we’re getting close to a competing top 10 list for the most bogus examples of wasteful spending Republicans could come up with.

Just over the last week or so, consider all the complained-about “pork” that hasn’t withstood scrutiny: Disney-to-Vegas HSR; the gang tattoo-removal program; marsh-mouse preservation; disaster insurance for livestock producers; volcano monitoring; the Oregon Solar Highway; Mormon cricket control. In each instance, the spending is either easily justified or the figment of a far-right imagination.

Yesterday, conservative Republicans, undeterred by their constant and embarrassing errors, went after a new example: a $1.79 million appropriation for “swine odor and manure management research” in Iowa. How would anyone defend this?

Actually, it’s pretty easy.

I’ll be the first to admit this is pretty funny stuff. Imagine, spending almost $2 million to study the fact that pigs smell?

Of course, if any of these people actually bothered to go back and do a little research about what they were discussing, they’d know it’s not really funny after all. Pig odor is more than just a smell; it’s dangerous stuff that can cause serious health problems, both physical and mental, in people. It can even contribute to asthma in children.

One study of people living near large hog farms in North Carolina, for instance, concluded “persons exposed to odors from intensive hog operations experienced ‘more tension, more depression, more anger, more fatigue and more confusion’ than a group of unexposed persons.”

A 1998 workshop about the subject, held at Duke University and featuring 50 experts, came to the conclusion that “Our current state of knowledge clearly suggests that it is possible for odorous emissions from animal operations, wastewater treatment, and recycling of biosolids to have an impact on physical health. The most frequently reported symptoms attributed to odors include eye, nose, and throat irritation, headache, nausea, hoarseness, cough, nasal congestion, palpitations, shortness of breath, stress, drowsiness, and alterations of mood.”

One far-right senator said the money is trying to “take the stink out of manure.” Another far-right senator said it’s not “the responsibility of the federal government to control pig odor.”

As it too often the case, these GOP lawmakers don’t have the foggiest idea what they’re talking about. This is a $1.79 million research project on a potential public health hazard. Why is that so ridiculous?

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but Jon Chait’s item the other day drove the point home nicely: “What’s on display is the worst elements of political demagoguery meeting the worst elements of the instant-reaction internet culture. They think the very idea of trying to learn about something before you take a position on it is a joke.”