"Good morning, everyone, and a warm Western Pennsylvania greeting to each and every one of you! My name is Carly, and I'm the assistant tour guide for the Murthaville Chamber of Continuous Commerce, and it's so nice to have all of you with us. Now, what brings you to Murthaville today?"
"A busted axle."
"Oh. Well, sorry for the inconvenience, but we're glad you chose to visit us anyhow while they're working on your bus. Some of the roads around here do get pretty chewed up, I have to admit, and we certainly see our share of flat tires and damaged rims. But here in Murthaville, we figure it's nothing that some more road-repair money can't fix."
"You repair those roads? It doesn't look like -- "
"Actually, the first thing we do is get the road-repair money. And thanks to Murthaville's great benefactor -- by the way, how many of you know his name?"
"Exactly! John Murtha is our congressman, and he's been in the House of Representatives for a long, long time, and he's a very influential man in Washington. Does anybody here know why he's so influential?"
"He's got pictures of the other congressmen?"
"What an amusing answer! No, the real answer is that John Murtha is so influential because he serves on the Appropriations Committee -- that's where the money comes from -- and he's even a chairman of one of the most important Appropriations subcommittees. And that's why we're standing here in the brand-new lobby of the brand-new John Murtha Institute for Applied Generosity."
"My, what a clever little boy you are! It's true -- some people call them 'earmarks.' That's when a congressman makes sure that a particular community -- and it doesn't have to be his own community, it could be anywhere -- gets its fair share of government spending. And John Murtha has always been very committed to this community, and this community is just as committed to him. Do you know what they call that?"
"Loyalty. They call that loyalty. And John Murtha knows some of the most loyal people you'll ever want to meet. And he's every bit as loyal to them as they are to him -- it's really heartwarming."
"What about -- "
"In fact, speaking of hearts, you may have noticed on your way into town all the big signs for the John Murtha Regional Cardiac Research Hub? Right across John Murtha Boulevard from the John Murtha High-Speed Rail Depot and the John Murtha Attack Submarine Test Facility and Senior Center? Well, the Cardiac Hub was all because of a little multi-million-dollar provision Mr. Murtha managed to tuck into one of those appropriations bills. And then he -- yes?"
"We saw the signs for the cardiac thing -- but where was the building?"
"Actually, the building is still in the planning stage. I understand they've even got some blueprints now. Meanwhile, though -- and this is the important thing -- the money from that provision in the bill? It's already bringing plenty of happiness to many of the good people of Murthaville."
"But if there's no -- "
"Here in Murthaville, federal money never sits idle for long. In fact, we like to say that in Murthaville our biggest cash crop is -- "
"Exactly. Whether it's a big payday for a well-positioned lobbyist or a juicy grant to a deserving relative, Murthaville is all about economic growth. And you know what that's called?"
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Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org