George Mason University Econ Chair Don Boudreaux summarizes my feelings as well in this letter to the editor of the Washington Post.
Your favorable front-page remembrance of the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha inadvertently testifies to the abysmally low standards to which politicians are held (“John Murtha dies; longtime congressman was master of pork-barrel politics,” Feb. 9). By your own account, Mr. Murtha was the “King of Pork.” He was known for skillfully using Congressional procedures to earmark funds for his district – that is, to prompt Uncle Sam to take money from Americans at large and give it to the relatively small number of Pennsylvanians who elect Mr. Murtha to office.
His justification? “I take care of my district.” Nothing here about spending taxpayer money wisely; nothing about the general welfare; nothing about principles or fiscal responsibility.
If Mr. Murtha on his own had traveled the country picking pockets, robbing banks, and burgling houses, only to bring the booty back to western PA and share it with his friends, he would have been rightly despised as a common criminal. But because Mr. Murtha joined forces with persons having similarly questionable morals, who together pass off their thievery as “lawmaking,” he’s celebrated in your pages – celebrated for doing, save on a grander scale, exactly what common thieves do.
And I’m sure it’s pure coincidence that many of the recipients of those earmarks just happened to be companies owned by or that employed Murtha’s friends and relatives.
The media loves to venerate politicians when they pass, simply because they were politicians. Doesn’t seem to matter what sort of scoundrels they really were.