Maureen Dowd devotes today's column to fawning over John McCain's anti-pork crusade. There's merit, in general, to the idea of eliminating wasteful spending. But if ever there was a time when we should not care about wasteful spending, it is now, when the economy has a massive failure of demand and anything that circulates money into the economy helps. So the anti-pork crusade is just strangely out of place at this time, a wild missing of the bigger picture.

And McCain's method of indentifying waste, gleefully repeated by Dowd, is a disgrace. His technique is to focus on programs that mention animals or food, or anythign that sounds silly. He's clearly not interested in learning whether any of the programs he targets have merit. Here is Dowd recording McCain's twitter postings:

$1 million for Mormon cricket control in Utah. “Is that the species of cricket or a game played by the brits?” McCain tweeted. ...

$2 million “for the promotion of astronomy” in Hawaii, as McCain twittered, “because nothing says new jobs for average Americans like investing in astronomy.” ...

$200,000 for a tattoo removal violence outreach program to help gang members or others shed visible signs of their past. “REALLY?” McCain twittered.

I don't know whether or not cricket control is a necessary program. Maybe crickets are doing many times that amount in crop damage every year. Maybe it's a boondoggle. I don't know about the astronomy program, either, though I do think there's a role for federal support of the sciences, even in silly-sounding places like Hawaii.

I do know that the tattoo-removal program is an effective anti-crime initiative -- it allows rehabilitated former to reenter society shorn of visible markings that cut them off from middle-class culture. McCain and Dowd don't know this, and they don't care. What's on display is the worst elements of political demagoguery meeting the worst elements of the instant-reaction internet culture. They think the very idea of trying to learn about something before you take a position on it is a joke.

--Jonathan Chait

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