NAFTA cost taxpayers too much porkThere has been much...

the Forum

December 01, 1993

NAFTA cost taxpayers too much pork

There has been much debate about the recently passed North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and I will not waste time arguing for one side or another. My bone of contention is with the way that the Clinton administration went about getting this piece of legislation passed through the House of Representatives.

When President Clinton realized that the agreement might not pass, he dug into the pockets of American taxpayers and started to pass out pieces of pork to wavering Congress members. These members of Congress were promised various concessions, such as bridges, dams, agricultural subsidies and roadways, in exchange for their vote in favor of NAFTA.

These favors were just added on to the agreement even though many of them had little to do with with the premise of NAFTA. The total size of these concessions is not a paltry sum, either. These pieces of pork have been reported to cost as much as $1.2 billion.

I'm not trying to question the merits of these allowances, I am just trying to understand why they were added onto an agreement that had little in common with these concessions.

When these pork barrel concessions came to light in the media, many Congressmen and administrative officials were quick to point out that this kind of bartering occurs all the time on large, important pieces of legislation and that this is just the way it is done.

I asked a local retired politician what he thought about this legislative procedure, and he concurred that this is the way it has always been done. But once again I must question the principle of this procedure.

If NAFTA was a passable piece of legislation, why must all of this pork be doled out to representatives? Why must concessions be given to members of Congress to vote on something that they believe is best for the country?

If these pieces of pork are truly essential to the welfare of the country, why can't they stand alone and be voted upon individually? With our national budget deficit expanding constantly, how can our representatives allow themselves to keep voting on pork barrel amendments?

I am not trying to defend or support NAFTA or the concessions that President Clinton had to give up to get it passed. I am just trying to understand why it is that just because something has always been done this way, it must continue to be done?

I believe that Americans have paid for enough pieces of rancid pork. Let bills pass on their own merits and allow unrelated pieces of legislation to be handled separately.

Thomas Kuegler Jr.

Essex

Forestation plan

On Jan. 18 the Baltimore County Council passed the forest conservation law. This act, required by the Maryland Forest Conservation Act, provides for replacement of trees lost due to development by requiring the developer to replant them or to pay a fee.

The county's law, although not as strong as we would have liked, is stronger than the state's conservation act. The Greater Baltimore Group Sierra Club is opposed to any weakening of the forest conservation law.

But an amendment to the forest conservation law was passed by the County Council in November that exempts redevelopment which occurs on pavement or on an unforested tract.

This effectively exempts redevelopment. A significant portion of the money for afforestation is raised from redevelopment projects. So this will be the end of Baltimore County's forestation program unless there are provisions for raising funds by other means.

Brian Parker

Potomac

The writer is vice chairman of the Potomac chapter of the Greater Baltimore Group Sierra Club.

Liberal selection

Janet Kersten as a news junkie (Other Voices, Nov. 23) needs to expand her reading if she does not see the "liberal media" in the three papers and 10 magazines that she reads.

The "liberal media" are not writers and commentators as she suggests; even listing Michael Kinsley, Mark Shields and Sam Donaldson as moderator/commentator is a little far fetched. The "liberal media" refers to the way that the news is presented. For example, for weeks all we have seen on the front page of the papers is about the misconduct of Sen. Robert Packwood, but nothing about Rep. Daniel Rostenkowski. No news (or, if it is, it's buried on the inside somewhere) about Commerce Secretary Ron Brown's misadventures.

Taking responsibility and suffering no consequence is easy to do. If the errors and miscalculations of Attorney General Janet Reno and Defense Secretary Les Aspin were committed by Republicans, the demand for their heads would still be sung.

When reading a news story, you expect the writer to present the facts and not his personal opinion. But in today's world you need to read more than a couple of papers, magazines and watch a few television reports to get the true facts of any story.

Ambler M. Blick

Reisterstown

Drug zones

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