Killing Florida pork could seriously help federal budget

ScienceArmed ForcesDefenseBudgets and BudgetingUnrest, Conflicts and WarJacksonville (Duval, Florida)

Enough talk about cutting the federal budget.

Let's start the job in Florida, beginning with Jacksonville's pork.

Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio want to move a nuclear aircraft carrier from Norfolk, Va., to Jacksonville. This would cost as much as $500 billion in upfront money, followed by the ongoing cost of duplicating services at the two ports.

The rationale is that all the East Coast carriers are bunched up at Norfolk, making them more vulnerable to natural disasters and sneak attack.

Actually, the real threat to these uber-expensive and vulnerable weapons systems is from future budget cutters. So the Navy is sending one of them to Florida, along with a flotilla of federal bucks, to create a massive jobs program and spread out political support for the fleet.

Close MacDill Air Force Base. We now move on to some Tampa pork. This air base should have been shut down years ago. It is poorly situated in a dense urban area, next to major civilian airports. But local congressional support and heavy lobbying have kept it open.

Flanked on three sides by water, this site would be prime development property. It should be sold to the people who developed Baldwin Park, although I hope the feds get more money for it than Glenda Hood got for our Navy base.

Now we move to some of our pork. NASA plans to spend untold billions on a Frankenstein shuttle. It will fly twice in the next 10 years. As yet, nobody has any idea where it will fly to.

Both Nelson and Rubio, along with Rep. Sandy Adams, love NASA pork.

I say we put them on the first flight to the closest asteroid.

Next up is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Kick them out of Florida and convert their Jacksonville headquarters into condos. We do not need the Corps to open floodgates and add 90 percent to the cost of building a dike. It's our water. We can figure it out for ourselves.

Remove the federal government from the Everglades. How many bureaucrats, biologists and engineers do we need doing the same thing, disagreeing over it, and then suing each other? The state has slashed its restoration budget, spent a fortune on useless land from U.S. Sugar and balked at federal water-quality standards. The feds can't force the state to fix something that even the feds don't know how to fix. The rising sea level will resolve this issue in due time.

Gov. Rick Scott wants $75 million from the feds to dredge the Port of Miami. This would accommodate bigger container ships that soon will be going through an enlarged Panama Canal. Miami is poorly situated to be a shipping hub. Why should Washington help cover our losses?

Abolish federal flood insurance. The program is running a $19 billion deficit, a number that only is going to grow as the program encourages more people to put more buildings in places that flood. It's a disaster for the environment and the budget.

I could go on and on. Eliminate power wheelchairs from Medicare and put a $250 deductible on imaging tests. Dump Amtrak's Florida routes. Eliminate beach-renourishment funding. Eliminate the sugar-subsidy program. Put tolls on Interstate 4 and other interstates to pay for maintenance and widening.

I am going to present this in pledge form to the Florida congressional delegation. We'll see how serious they are about cutting budgets.

mthomas@tribune.com or 407-420-5525

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