Five representatives were ranting and frothing in Congress the other day about how the economic recovery bill included a $30 million earmark for San Francisco mice. Representative Jackie Speier, who represents San Francisco and San Mateo counties, was surprised. She looked into it and wrote something on her findings for the San Francisco Chronicle, a newspaper to which I subscribe.
The short version: it's a deliberate lie. Slightly longer version: a staffer said someone said $30 million might go to wetlands recovery, and since the wetlands in San Francisco Bay contain an endangered species of mouse, and “mouse” sounds sillier than the names of other endangered wildlife that live there, not to mention the other reasons to restore wetlands, let's just say the mouse gets $30 million. Let's blow up a picture of a mouse into a poster and wave it around at a press conference. Forget the economy, let's grandstand!
(Speier points out that while the mouse in question, the salt marsh harvest mouse, does live in wetlands around San Francisco Bay, none are actually found in San Francisco itself. Odd—it's as if we had mislaid all the city's wetlands over the years. Somehow.)
Do I have to tell you what political party people pretending to be outraged about alleged money for mice belong to?
I don't feel like it. I bet you know. If you don't, you can read the newspaper story, but I bet you just know. Hint: they're not big on protecting endangered animals and they don't like San Francisco. (Although the fact that these legislators chose to pretend wetlands restoration was just a mouse boondoggle suggests that they're afraid many members of their party might actually like the idea of wetlands restoration. They want to be the party of hunters, for example, yet ducks like wetlands too.)
Suppose there was actually going to be $30 million just for the salt marsh harvest mouse. Suppose a powerful harvest-mouse identity-politics organization wrested control of the money away from the bureaucrats. What would these sly little featherbedders spend it on? I only hope they wouldn't get flimflammed into spending it all on lobbyists.
Would they buy a controlling interest in Habitrail? Would they order trucks full of sunflower seeds and instruct them to back up to the Bay and dump their cargoes? I doubt they have the imagination. I fear they'd go the obvious route. For their own selfish, greedy, short-sighted, personal gratification, they'd spend it on wetlands restoration.