Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The rational hypocrite

I wanted to talk about this story of freshman GOP congressmen asking for pork after running on being fiscally responsible because its a good example of rationality and one of them hits close to home. Here is one of the stories:

Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), a member of the freshmen Republican class of the House of Representatives whose district includes the port project, faced a predicament. Elected as a fiscal hawk, with pledges to get spending under control, he could either go to the mat for Cates Landing or make a philosophical, self-sacrificial statement.

He chose the former. On March 8, 2011, Gannett news service reported that the funding for Cates Landing was being targeted by lawmakers looking to slash the federal budget. The same day that report came out, Fincher spoke directly with Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about the funds. The next day, he wrote a follow-up letter seeking assistance in "obligating" the $13 million grant for the port.

Last year around this time I interviewed with the Roy Herron campaign. He was running for TN's 8th district and his opponent was Stephen Fincher. I'm not sure why I didn't get the job. But obviously I wouldn't be working for a congressman right now if I did. The poor economy was too much for a Democrat to overcome in a moderate to slightly conservative leaning district. So Fincher's typical anti-spending, anti-everything the gov't does campaign won out. And now we have this story of him using the big bad federal gov't to buy him something for his district.


Yes this is hypocritical. And I don't mind basking in the ideological flip flop. But as I have pointed out in numerous posts, this is a politician acting rationally. According to the article this "pork" project could create a lot of jobs and improve roads in the area. Those are good things in the best of economic times. So obviously they would be good for the district in these tough times. Because of the benefits this probably wasn't a difficult decision for Fincher to make. I doubt him and his staff spent much time worrying about the negative effects of him being labeled a hypocrite. If he gets this project its much more likely people will praise him for bringing jobs to their district. The fact that it goes against his ideology and campaign message will barely be an afterthought.

But just because Fincher is acting in a personally rational way doesn't mean I am willing to give him a pass. Listen to what he says about gov't in relation to this project:

Sara Sendek, a spokesman for Fincher, noted that the $13 million grant request was actually made by his predecessor, Rep. Jon Tanner (D-Tenn.). Even so, she added, "Congressman Fincher does support this project."

As for the why: "He believes government does play a role in creating an environment that attracts private investment and job growth. This project does exactly that," she said. "It is very important for Tennessee's economy and for the country's economy. So it was absolutely worthwhile."

That does not sound like a Republican. But when its your job on the line and your district is in tough shape you have to embrace reality and drop the bullshit that conservatives like to talk. What's a shame is that he can turn around and vote to cut similar spending for other districts in other states that need it. That's the problem with federalism.

Someone like Fincher can do great things for his district and in the next vote can completely screw over the rest of the country. I'm not sure if I'll get any call backs from whatever Democrat who tries to run against him. But I'd be happy to help get someone elected that can act rationally without being a hypocrite.

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