In Vermont, the federal government plans to seize a farmer’s land to build a $5 million border post on a quiet country road. The community is fiercely opposed, and the Department of Homeland Security is under fire for planning expensive projects that some say isn’t needed.
The hamlet of Morses Line is just a dot on the Canadian border in the small northern Vermont town of Franklin. A quiet country road leads to the existing brick border station at the edge of a hayfield.
In about two hours on a recent afternoon, one truck and two cars go by. One was a Customs officer arriving for his shift.
“Last night was a little busier because you had bingo at the church in the neighboring town,” says Brian Rainville. The land the U.S. government wants is part of his family’s dairy farm. Rainville goes through a box full of documents and pulls out the architectural drawings for the new border post.
“So we’re looking at putting in a storm water pond, a traffic turnaround, covered parking, three designated traffic lanes, two stages of radiation detectors, a two-story building with a fitness center on the second floor. It all strikes me as a little much for Morses Line,” he says.
“I’m not quite sure how Morses Line, with a traffic rate of 2 1/2 cars an hour, is a matter of national security and utmost budgetary importance…”
Similar controversies are playing out across the 3,000-mile border with Canada, where the Department of Homeland Security plans to spend $355 million to fortify 22 border stations.
Federal money is hard to turn down, but the Vermont congressional delegation opposes the Morses Line project.
The government says the projects are needed to meet the challenges of a post-Sept. 11 world. “Our homeland security is only as strong as each individual port of entry,” says Marco Lopez, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection. “That is why we are committed to making sure that we are able to provide the technology and the infrastructure requirements that this new threat environment demands of us.”
Officials say the existing Morses Line customs building has a leaky roof and not enough space to inspect vehicles or hold prisoners.
RTFA. I’d love to know the sum total of prisoners they haven’t been able to “hold” at the Morses Line border station?
More to the point, this is what I would expect from most Washington bureaucrats. Enhanced by the fear and unfettered lust for power of the Bush/Cheney years, the Department of Homeland Security was destined to become a juggernaut of federal careerists.
No matter that they duplicate functions. No matter that they perform functions counter to real needs. No matter that they waste millions of taxpayers dollars in the endless cycle of budget, fund and spend because the budget exists. The only ethic of what our federal bureaucracies have become – is justify your existence regardless of cost.
Now, here is a political issue ripe for legitimate grassroots opposition. It’s not one of the papier-mâché devils conjured up for Tea Party rallies. It’s not an “excess” of spending aimed at the needs of the unemployed and unemployable, a population lacking a forward-looking economy – cursed by the Party of NO. It’s simply a discrete, useless, waste of American taxpayer dollars.
It is, however, one of the greedy excesses of Washington in action that needs to be decommissioned by those elected to bring real change to America.