By Harry Welty
Published October 28, 2005
Catch as Ketchikan
Little could I have imagined thirty-five years ago as we debarked from our ship
into the hamlet of Ketchikan, Alaska, that it would someday become an obscene
symbol for America's fiscal enslavement of my children. I would have been even
more surprised to learn that this enslavement would be championed by my once
frugal "cloth coat" Republican Party.
Ketchikan was a tiny hamlet then. Even today it only supports 8,000 souls but
they are very lucky souls who are about to receive an extravagant
quarter-of-a-billion dollars to build the "highway to nowhere." It's a
nice little pork chop for people living a catch-as-catch-can life off Alaska's
There wasn't much to do in Ketchikan back in the 60's. Our hotel didn't have
television but there was a tiny movie theater. We killed time by watching the
worst double feature we ever paid money to see. One movie was a "Hard Days
Night" knockoff starring the "Herman's Hermits." Ketchikan was a
The industry of Alaska's panhandle depended on raw materials. Even the one
certifiable tourist draw, totem poles, were hewed from the Sitka Spruce which
was being cut down to fuel Japan's ravenous emerging economy. We were given a
short tour of the town's highlights, a lumber yard and the fish hatchery, by a
young Ketchikanian. He told us he couldn't stand the Japanese businessmen,
"little japs," who were "crawling" all over Alaska buying up
He told us, with unintended irony, that he was planning to move to Hawaii. I
couldn't help but be amused. If our young guide couldn't stand the sight of
Japanese in Ketchikan I wondered how he would manage in Hawaii where one-fifth
of the population was Japanese-American!
Today's Ketchikan is served by an airport on an island which is a seven-minute
ferry ride away. There is no great hurry and there are no bumper-to-bumper
traffic jams. However, the Republican Congress considers this enough of an
inconvenience to authorize the building of a span longer than the Golden Gate
Bridge in its pork laden highway bill. We will borrow a quarter billion dollars
from China to put the Ketchikan ferry out of business. This is the best way to
finance the bridge because raising taxes to pay for it could slow down the
economy while Republicans control Congress and the White House. It will be much
better for Republican office holders if we let our children pay China back after
the Democrats have taken back control of the Federal Government.
According to a new book authored by Chris Edwards, "Downsizing the Federal
Government," the list of pork barrel projects has grown dramatically since
Republicans took over.
of Pork Barrel Projects
Republicans take control of Congress 1995 -
1998 - 2,100
George W Bush is elected President 2000 -
2004 - 10,656
2005 - 13,997
Anti-pork Republicans have sacrificed most of their "Contract with
America" values (remember term limits?) for the higher priority of
perpetual reelection. Some Republican Senators were embarrassed enough by the
Ketchikan bridge to suggest dropping it but Alaska's Republican Senator, Ted
Stevens, threatened to retire if the bridge was not built. As this would have
opened the way for a Democrat to take Steven's place thereby imperiling the
Republican majority the Senators hastily caved in to his blackmail. Lord Acton
would not be surprised.
Only a bleeding heart liberal could seriously suggest that a better use of
federal spending, in the wake of the FEMA aided crippling of the Port of New
Orleans, would be to repair America's most important water transportation
highway. But then again, there are (or were) too many Democrats in New Orleans,
in its pre Katrina days! Why it had 100 times the population of Ketchikan,
Alaska. Fortunately, most of them have since moved to Republican Red states.
Besides, how could anyone compare rebuilding New Orleans to sparing a few
Alaskans the tedium of an occasional seven minute ferry ride?
And we lucky Northeastern Minnesotans have gotten a little piece of the pork
action even though our Congressman is a Democrat. Jim Oberstar snuck a fifty
million dollar appropriation for a four-lane highway to his hamlet of
International Falls into the Republican's highway bill. This white elephant gift
came as a great surprise to Minnesota's Highway Department because it never
occurred to them that such a project had any serious priority.
How did Oberstar pull this off? Jim has been a very quiet critic of Republicans
but more importantly he rushed to Majority leader Tom Delay's side when
President Bush signed legislation to keep the brain dead Terry Shaivo on feeding
tubes. I suggest we name the four-lane highway to International Falls the
"Terry Shaivo Memorial Highway" in Jim's honor.
Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com