Johnstown, Pa.– Devastated in 1889 by a notorious flood, this town today welcomes turboprop aircraft to its tiny airport. Approaching the terminal — which a decent-sized grocery store would dwarf — a sign greets passengers:
Johnstown Cambria County Airport
Inside, a framed photo features John Murtha meeting employees at a local factory and praising their employer for creating jobs. Another picture shows the vocal Iraq-war critic’s face superimposed on the Stars and Stripes.
Near the front door, a portrait of Murtha — clad in a dark suit, white shirt, and dark tie — smiles from the wall, as Old Glory rises from an adjacent flag stand.
“During the 1990’s [sic], largely through the efforts of Congressman Murtha, this airport extended its runway, updated its landing, approach lighting, and instrument landing systems, built a commercial aviation complex, was a catalyst for major upgrades to sewage and water services on this plateau, and became the home to nine National Guard and Reserve units, which include a new air-traffic control tower and state-of-the-art radar system that services commercial and military traffic,” reads a plaque beside the Democrat’s picture. “The total federal investment was approximately $125 million.”
So, this whole place is essentially a $125 million political ad funded by America’s taxpayers. Murtha’s face greets every constituent who traverses this airport. These repeat impressions, as advertisers call them, boost Murtha’s name identification and ease his reelection to Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, which he has represented since 1975.
Such ego-driven pork-barrel projects protect incumbents, fuel their vanity, and cost taxpayers real money. And they should stop.
Murtha, after whom a highway also is named, is not the only member of Congress with this edifice complex. This problem is bicameral and bipartisan.
Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is named after Alaska’s senior Republican senator. He lavished it with $12.5 million in federal funds last year alone.