Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

$50,000 for the National Mule and Packers Museum in Bishop, California

America's pioneers didn't settle the west alone — they relied on the help of mules. So, argued California Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, it's only natural that $50,000 in federal money help establish a museum honoring the pack animals. "They could go 30 miles a day where wagon trains could only go about five. They are an integral part of the development of this country," the Republican said on the House floor, pleading for support for the earmark backing the National Mule and Packers Museum. Even today, he also noted, the U.S. Army uses mules "on special assignments" in Afghanistan. According to its Web site, the museum will explore mules' role aiding early explorers and surveyors in Bishop, a small town abutting the Sierra Nevada mountains known as "the mule capital of the world" for its week-long "Mule Days" celebration that draws some 30,000 people, and 700 mules. But the earmark in a Housing and Urban Development bill was quickly deemed a gross example of unnecessary spending. Said Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake, a frequent earmark foe: "I would simply say it is time for the American taxpayer to say 'whoa' and stand up for fiscal sanity and actually stop the practice of earmarking like we are doing."