Carol Shea-Porter's Most Excellent Earmark

Our local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, headlines one of its articles today "Shea-Porter visits teen center she helped keep open". It begins:

DOVER [NH] — As she walked around the Dover Teen Center on Wednesday, watching people play pool and Guitar Hero, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter smiled and said "It's nice to see this."
And why is that?
Shea-Porter used an earmark earlier this year to secure $233,000 in federal funds to ensure the center will remain open full-time for three years.
Oh. So why was that necessary?
The teen center was closed for more than two weeks this summer after the City Council could not find money in the budget to keep it open.
In other words: the people elected to decide how to allocate money incoming from local taxpayers to various city activities decided to spend it on other things. To say that they "could not find the money" is euphemistic and obfuscatory. They made choices, and those choices did not include funding a full-time teen center.
The first-term Democrat said the funds represent New Hampshire taxpayers' money and communities like Dover should receive their share of tax dollars for such programs.
The utter foolishness of sending "taxpayers' money" to Washington simply for the purpose of shipping a "share" back to local governments for politically-favored projects is left unexamined. If Congresswoman Shea-Porter were really concerned about "taxpayers' money", how about sending it directly back to the taxpayers? Or—even better—how about not taking it away from them in the first place?

But that would allow people to make their own choices with that money. They might choose to fund the teen center, but they (horrors) might not. Hence, Congresswoman Shea-Porter would prefer to make that choice for them.

The story goes on about how wonderful it all is (e.g., a lot of kids playing Guitar Hero on "one of the center's large, flat-screen televisions") It's essentially an unpaid ad for Congresswoman Shea-Porter's current re-election bid. For anyone with old fashioned notions about limited government, Federalism, inefficiency, and corruption, it's depressing.

It sent me off to reread Frédéric Bastiat's essay "The State", and I recommend it to you. First published in 1848, much of it reads as if it was written in response to today's newspaper stories, including the one discussed above. A few of Bastiat's examples are quaintly out of date; nearly every one can easily be replaced with an equivalent current example.

Bastiat longs for a "good, simple, and intelligible definition" of the state. After much flowery and funny writing, he proposes one:

The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else.
Today, this fictitious entity is backed by a powerful secular religion whose adherents believe in the state. And they believe to as great a degree as any humble Christian believes that his Redeemer liveth. And so we get stories about the believers (e.g., our fine local newspaper and its reporters) and the narcissistic priests and priestesses (e.g., our fine Congresswoman) who steer the great fictitious entity to shower magical largess on favored people and activities.