Airline passengers’ safety traded away for pork

It’s not often that taxpayers get a crystal clear view of how special interest spending personally affects them, but a December 28 blog by my Examiner colleague Mark Hemingway (“Sen. Dodd, D-Conn., slashed aviation security funding for pet constituency” offers just such an opportunity.

Hemingway reported that in July, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., proposed an amendment to reduce aviation security appropriations by $4.5 million – money specifically meant to be used for “explosives detection systems” to prevent incidents like the foiled Christmas Day airplane bombing attempt in Detroit- in favor of federal fire grants.

What’s that you say? Legislation represents a necessary compromise between equally compelling goals? Not this time.

My September 23 oped -“Even federal programs that don’t work are tough to kill” – focused on the results of a study by Dr. David Muhlhausen of the Heritage Foundation, which concluded that the same fire grants Dodd raided the aviation safety program to fund produced “no statistically measurable results” in reducing deaths and/or injuries in firefighters or civilians.

A subsequent 2007 report on fire grants by the National Academy of Public Administration also concluded that the more than $5.7 billion spent on fire grants since 2001 was not cost-effective. Congress nonetheless took millions of dollars away from a program to prevent terrorists from taking bombs aboard aircraft in order to fund federal fire grants that have been already proven to be totally ineffective in reducing fire casualties.

The trade-off doesn’t get any clearer than this: The top priority of Sen. Dodd and his colleagues on Capitol Hill is pacifying the politically active firefighters’ union with useless congressional pork, not doing everything in their power to ensure Americans’ safety whenever they board an airplane. 

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