In the Loop has a piece today on an effort led by Rep. Lamar Smith, and supported by the entire Texas delegation, to name a post office after a San Antonio politician and state-government lobbyist whose employer donated money to Smith’s campaign. Now, I know Lamar Smith, and the chance that he’s somehow on the take is zero — less than zero, if that’s possible. But the reason an honest man like Smith can get into this “appearance of impropriety” nonsense is that we now have a practice of naming government buildings after living people. Why is this allowed? No living person can be depicted on a stamp or on currency, but there’s no limitation on buildings or other facilities (or Navy ships). A legislator in Arkansas tried to bar the practice in his state last year — the bill never made it out of committee.
So we have the George Bush Center for Intelligence (aka CIA headquarters), the Ford and O’Neill House Office Buildings (named for them long before their deaths), more than 30 places named after Robert Byrd of course, and so on. It’s bad enough that the vanity of the rich causes them to allow university buildings and hospital wings to be named after them (or, as the Boss says, “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.”), but at least it’s their money. But politicians are using our money to name things after themselves. Have they no shame?