Border fence clear example of bad spending

Freedom New Mexico

What is it about bureaucrats that makes them compulsive spenders? Government types seem compelled to throw money away, even when they oppose the very projects on which they’re spending.

A famous recent case is Alaska’s “road to nowhere.” After public outrage caused Congress to defund the “bridge to nowhere” between Ketchikan and Gravina Island in Alaska, Gov. Sarah Palin ordered the Gravina Island Highway, designed to feed the bridge, would be built as planned.

Palin justified the expense saying the money had already been allocated and she felt she had to use it. The road now sits unused, destined to slowly fall apart.

Now Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano uses the same logic in declaring that parts of the border fence that have been funded will be built, even if construction hasn’t started yet.

This is despite Napolitano’s own expressed skepticism and even ridicule of the barrier that the Government Accountability Office says is costing about $4 million per mile. As Arizona governor she famously made light of the project, saying, “You show me a 12-foot fence and I’ll show you a 13-foot ladder.”

Even as DHS secretary she has maintained a similar stance. In a Feb. 16 interview on National Public Radio, she said, “I’ve been one of the people out there saying look, you cannot build a fence from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas, and call it immigration policy. You’ve got to have boots on the ground.”

Fortunately, Hidalgo County officials were able to negotiate changes in which the fence became part of reinforcement of the Rio Grande levee, which could help with flood control. Along other parts of the border where the fence already has been built, it has proven as ineffective as other barriers. People already have built ramps to go over it, tunnels under it, and have even breached the fence itself with cutting torches.

The funding issue is almost moot; most of the fence already has been built or is under construction. In several areas, however, work hasn’t started, either because of ongoing litigation over private land that is being taken in order to build it, or because contractors just haven’t gotten to it yet.

Given the ineffectiveness that’s already been proven, and Napolitano’s own recognition that it isn’t the answer, she should simply order that construction not begin on those parts of the fence that haven’t been started. Allocation of the money doesn’t mean it has to be spent; where contracts have been made, those affected can be reimbursed for their expenses to this point. The remainder can easily be diverted to other needs, such as helping fund the increase in manpower along the border that recently was announced.

Spending the money just because it’s there proves the point of the legions of Americans who insist that waste has become ingrained in our government, and that there is little regard for the economic welfare of the taxpayers who are forced to fund countless initiatives that have no real purpose or chance of success.

Let’s hope Napolitano and others in our government come to their senses before another needless section of the border fence is started.