They’re spending how much?

THEY’RE SPENDING HOW MUCH?…. Let me get this straight: $650,000 for beaver management is outrageous, even if it helps prevent extensive property damage. $200,000 for a gang-tattoo-removal program is ridiculous, even if it helps prevent crime. $951,500 for the Oregon Solar Highway is absurd, even if it’s a pilot program for a no-emissions alternative energy initiative.

But $1 million for a birthday party committee, honoring a president who died years ago, is the kind of spending that enjoys broad, bipartisan support.

The House voted Monday night to approve the creation of a panel to plan a celebration of the centennial of Ronald Reagan’s birth in February of 2011.

Earmark opponent Jeff Flake and former presidential candidate Ron Paul were the only Republicans who did not vote in favor of the measure, which passed 371-19.

The 11 members of the Reagan Centennial Commission will not be compensated, but the Congressional Budget Office estimated last month that reimbursement for travel expenses and other associated administrative costs would bring the eventual price tag for the project to roughly $1 million.

The Reagan Centennial Commission couldn’t have raised $1 million privately for this? Rumor has it, the former president had some admirers in the corporate world. They may have been willing to chip in a few bucks.

Mike Lillis added, “[The $1 million is] nothing, of course, relative to the trillion dollar figures we’re hearing out of Washington these days. Still, in the middle of a deepening recession, when deficit spending is flirting with $2 trillion in 2009 alone, is this really the best way to be spending taxpayer dollars?”

Truth be told, I don’t much care about the money for a Reagan birthday party. The misplaced hero worship strikes me as kind of silly, but predictable. I’m struck, though, by the context. Republican lawmakers can’t scream “Pork!” loud enough, even on spending measures that make sense and save us money. But $1 million for a committee to plan a birthday party for someone who isn’t even alive anymore strikes these same people as a great idea.

If I didn’t know better, I might think Republicans love their version of Reagan more than they hate dubious spending measures.

Update: CNN and Glenn Thrush are now reporting that the initial reporting on this was mistaken, and that the Centennial Commission will not spend federal funds. I’m not sure how the reports could have gotten this story backwards, but it appears there’s nothing to see here. Move along….