As winter turns to spring, or the day of it, anyway, we can expect before summer arrives, I would like to turn my attention to nature. The winter moth was introduced to North America from Europe and has now spread over much of the northeastern United States and Canada. Like the gypsy moth, the winter moth loves to eat trees, but not just shade trees. No, the winter moth likes fruit too, particularly, I understand, apples and crabapples. Now this may not seem like all that big a deal. Unless, of course, you own or work in an orchard and depend on apples for your living. I suppose then it would be a very big deal.
The reason I bring it up is that one of the innumerable earmarks recently attached in committee to the House budget was $150,000 for an ongoing winter moth research project at UMass. When I first reviewed the list of earmarks, I was ready to jump on this and others as frivolous wastes of taxpayer money. But, granting the benefit of the doubt, I did a little research and discovered the winter moth is not native to this area and thus has few predators to check its spread. From a different perspective, the $150,000 allocation no longer seemed quite so frivolous.
The point I am trying to make is this: not all earmarks are ham-handed attempts by politicians to bring the bacon home to their districts. Some earmarks are legitimate attempts on the part of legislators to circumvent what can be an inert bureacracy. Though I reserve the right to criticize the legislature for excessive earmarks, as I did in my most recent post, the Commonwealth’s administrative departments and how and where they spend their budgets needs to be part of any debate on earmarks. If for no other reason than that most of the people who work in the bureaucracy probably live somewhere inside 495 and couldn’t pick a winter moth out of a police lineup.