Enough With the ‘Monuments to Me’

Few would begrudge, say, the naming of a ship after a former president, or a park after a retired legislator known for a lifetime of exemplary service. Our modern representatives in Washington, however, are disinclined to wait for retirement or risk the judgment of history. So from sea to shining sea, they clutter our nation with such landmarks as the James E. Clyburn Pedestrian Overpass, the Thad Cochran U.S. Bankruptcy Courthouse, the Tom Harkin Global Communications Center, the C.W. Bill Young Marine Science Complex, John D. Dingell Drive—all named for current members of Congress.

That’s just the tip of the bipartisan iceberg, usually effected through the skillful use of earmarks. Though no one beats the late Robert Byrd of West Virginia—with more than 30 public entities named after him while he was still in Congress—he has had many imitators. Airports are a particular favorite. Witness Mississippi’s Trent Lott International Airport, Alaska’s Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, and Pennsylvania’s vastly underused John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport.

The good news is that the 112th Congress has an opportunity to end this practice. Back in 2008, Texas Republican Michael McCaul succeeded in getting an amendment forbidding these “monuments to me” in a Veterans Affairs appropriations bill. His plan is to reintroduce legislation that would ban the practice altogether, which he hopes will be passed by both houses and signed into law by the president.

Wall Street Journal
1/25/11