Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Earmarks--The Con

Someone who was at my talk in Johnstown, PA emailed me with the other side of earmarks in Johnstown,

Thanks to Congressman Murtha, millions of dollars have been falling out of the sky and into the laps to the wealthy business leaders in our small community. The amount of money has dramatically increased over the 20+ years Congressman Murtha has been in office, especially since last year, when the democrats won control of the House and Jack Murtha became Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Most people would be envious to have between $100M and $200M injected into a small area of a couple hundred thousand people. But the reality turns out to be vastly different.

Over the past 20 years, the business leaders have all hired their relatives and buddies to run these increasingly profitable and fast growing companies. So instead of cultivating a climate of innovation and entrepreneurialism that rewards success, the congressional largess has created an arrogant, oppressive and incredibly wealthy regime of “curmudgeons” and “cavemen” that are actively stifling entrepreneurial ideas and initiatives by the young people on their staffs and around the community.

Almost everyone in the town knows that the claims of the companies and the politicians amount to little more than an elaborate charade, but they are afraid to say something about it, for fear that there will be a reprisal against one of the friends or family members. So just below the surface of this town is the gnawing fear that the Congressman will be thrown-out of office, resign, or retire and all the money will suddenly disappear, leaving nothing but for sale signs for as far as the eye can see. And everyone with brains or talent will make a beeline to the nearest big city, leaving the elderly and poorest of the poor to fend for themselves.

I hope that Johnstown is able to leverage some wonderful attributes (more on them Monday), their defense cluster, health care technology expertise and their young people to develop into a more entrepreneurial community.

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