The Great North Carolina BBQ

Pork
Pork

The allocation of North Carolina’s share of the pork from the $787 billion stimulus bill has begun! In fact, in February the governor appointed North Carolina’s very own czar to dictate the allocation of the $6 billion given to the Old North State. Czar Dempsey Benton is the director of the Office of Economic Recovery and Investment and charged with properly distributing the stimulus dollars.

This raises some interesting questions. There does not appear to be any sort of legislative check or any check at all on Czar Dempsey. The governor unilaterally created his office and, he was unilaterally chosen by the governor without input from the General Assembly or the citizens of North Carolina to be the director. This is a most undemocratic move and one of questionable constitutionality. This is also a rather troubling state of affairs, given that he has unchecked control over $6 billion of taxpayer money. Moreover, given the state government’s blatant corruption and waste in areas that are “checked and balanced,” consider how much greater is the opportunity for corruption and waste in an area that is not subject to these safeguards. It is a circumvention of the legislative process and flies in the face of the basic founding of this country.

There is already some evidence of waste in the Czar’s kingdom. He has allotted $76,000 to an urban forestry project in Durham. The project involves removing 29 trees along a downtown street and replacing them with 103 new ones, with a projected cost of $575 per tree planted. The costs associated with this project are unusually high, particularly the costs associated with the planting of the new trees. The trees typical for such a project usually run at about $100 each. So, then the remainder of the budget must be spent on labor, leaving labor costs at about $475 per tree, which is ridiculous.

Cooked Pork
Cooked Pork

What this illustrates is the danger and cost of giving one person so much power and removing the legislative branch from the picture. Czar Dempsey is running about the state spending money on a whole slew of pet projects at exorbitant costs to taxpayers.

Of course, the irony of the whole situation is that this supposed “stimulus” has accomplished nothing. The latest statistics from the Labor Department indicate an increase rather than a decrease in unemployment. The official statistic has risen to 9.8%, but when factoring in those who have given up looking for work (discouraged workers) or are involuntarily working part-time the statistic is 17%. Unemployment among the young (ages 16-24) alone stands at 25.9%. We have been asked to surrender our traditional forms and modes of government in return for nothing.

4 comments

  1. This is completely personal heuristic, but when I purchased a tree to replace one that I accidentally destroyed on private property, it cost me $475. I was a teenager so I got a discount of $75 on mercy and my charming good looks.

    Everything should be checked to ensure it's above board, but the forestry project doesn't throw up any flags for me.

    Uprooting trees in the middle of downtown probably involves breaking some concrete too. I imagine uprooting twenty-three trees costs more than planting twenty-three.

    Again, I think everything should be looked into, but I don't see any need to allege malfeasance over the trees.

    Conservative Czarophobia seems to only be triggered by Democratic administrations.

    1. Last line is interesting. I would say Republican Czarophobia seems to only be triggered by Democratic administrations. But, what I want to be able to tell people in 20 years is, who the heck started calling these people "czars?" It is just weird! Anybody have any insights?

    2. As my family owns a tree nursery, I can speak with some authority on the subject of the trees. After soliciting bids from various privately owned tree nurseries and the state nursery for a project, the state buys from the lowest bidder at wholesale price. The wholesale price tends to be significantly lower than the retail price you see on similar trees in stores because they buy in bulk, which lowers costs for the nursery, etc. Assuming that they bought the largest possible size (the balled and burlapped variety), they should be paying something in the neighborhood of $100/tree. Also, in the budget they have allocated for this project, the total new tree costs comes out to about $60,000, which leaves about another $16,000 for concrete and the like.

      Of course, I only meant this as an example. My main concern was with the unelected, unaccountable bureaucratic wonk directing the office. I believe that regardless of the party affiliations, they are a growing cause of concern (I believe Obama now has more than 30). They report to no one except the people who appointed them and are a convenient way of putting people who would otherwise have no chance at surviving a confirmation hearing or election (e.g. Van Jones) into positions of power within the government.

      Also, they are completely unnecessary. Why can't the State Treasurer fulfill this role? Or if it's too big for him, let the General Assembly handle it. The Treasurer and the General Assembly are responsible to the people who elected them. If the people feel that the distribution of this money is in someway wrong, they have the ability to remove them from office. This Dempsey fellow doesn't care what the people think. His only concern is pleasing the governor. Citizens can protest his actions and complain about waste all they want, but ultimately he has no reason to care. The people cannot do anything to him.

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