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Costs Go On Despite Slump

by Editorial Board
Democrat Herald, September 15, 2009

When the economy tanks and money gets tight, one rational response is to stop or postpone projects that cost a lot. But in government that's not the way it works. The regulatory machinery, set in motion long ago, grinds on.

James Redden, a senior U.S. district court judge in Portland, is once again reviewing a new government's plan for preserving salmon in the face of the Columbia and Snake river dams. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on dam modifications and changes in operation. It may never work to restore salmon runs to their level of 100 years ago. But haven't we spent enough?

Congress enacted a law against lead content in things for children. Members probably didn't know that this would drive many small makers out of business with a requirement that proof of the absence of elemental lead must be provided for even the smallest thing. Now that they know, and now that every job counts, do you think they might change the law? Not on your life.

Years ago, lawmakers and regulators determined that the water in the Willamette River was not cool enough in the summer to suit (here we go with fish again) the migrating salmon. Mostly the reason is irreversible change in the nature of the river and the disappearance of riverside vegetation on tributary streams. In response, the state has ordered expensive measures to cool the discharge of municipal and industrial wastewater, even though this makes up a only tiny fraction of the river's flow.

Nobody thinks of suspending such dubious regulations when money is tight. So even though budgets are cut back and people are laid off, the public and employers still pay millions for a vain mandate to make a big river cool.

Such examples are worth remembering when government next says that the money it has is not enough

Editorial Board
Costs Go On Despite Slump
Democrat Herald, September 15, 2009

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