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Palin on Grabbing Federal Funds: Hypocrite or Good Mayor?

There’s been a good deal of response to my post yesterday about Mayor Sarah Palin’s enthusiasm in receiving federal money for Wasilla — some of it from from small-government veterans, who pointed out that it’s the task of small-government leaders to secure federal dollars for their communities.

But that was never in doubt, and it’s not the issue here: Of course Wasilla (pop. 5,400 in 2000) couldn’t afford the millions to pave its airport; and of course there’s nothing inherently dishonest or villainous about tapping Washington to make up the difference.

This money came, as some have been quick to distinguish — and as I should have made clear earlier — from FAA and DOT grants, which, though they require congressional approval during the appropriations process, don’t target specific projects.

That being said, Palin’s alacrity to grab federal dollars, from any perch, remains significant in the context of a race in which she’s trying to paint herself as a maverick fiscal conservative who never needed to call on federal taxpayers for a dime.

In her speech Wednesday night, that message couldn’t have been clearer: “I told the Congress ‘thanks but no thanks’ for that Bridge to Nowhere,” she proclaimed. “If our state wanted a bridge, we’d build it ourselves.”

Nevermind, for a minute, that she initially supported that bridge. As the Anchorage Daily News reported on Oct. 5, 2006, Palin said during a gubernatorial debate: “I do support the infrastructure projects that are on tap here in the state of Alaska that our congressional delegations worked hard for.”

Her newfound message of anti-Washington independence flies right in the face of her first-hand knowledge that small communities can’t live without a reliance on Washington. So why not just come out and say it? (This is a rhetorical question. Most conservatives, even in the wake of the Bush administration, have somehow retained the delusion that they represent small-government self-reliance — this even as red states continue to suck more federal dollars than they return to Washington, while blue states tend to bankroll places like Alaska.)

Palin’s previous grant-grabbing is particularly odd in light of what she says she’ll do from the White House. Because more tax cuts for the wealthy, greater military spending and a promise to balance the budget all point to just one thing: fewer federal dollars for places like Wasilla.

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