Let's do right-wing thing and send that pork back to Washington

Here's your chance, Nevada.

This is your golden opportunity to unfurl old "Battle Born" and wave it proudly in the Libertarian breezes.

Come on, all you die-hard conservatives and daffy Obama critics who these days find yourselves chattering endlessly about the evils of pork barrel politics, "earmarks" and government waste in general. Take time out from calling into your favorite radio talk show and register your complaint.

This is the time to demand that your local and state officials return the $100 million secured by Senate Majority Leader and Silver State Pork Farmer Supreme Harry Reid in the recent $410 billion federal spending bill. (Meanwhile, Nevada's "hard-core conservative" John Ensign voted against the bill after putting his fingerprints on $54 million in earmarks. And he didn't even blush.)

Many conservatives have assailed the latest federal shopping spree for being riddled with "earmarks" at a time Congress had supposedly sworn off pork. You can't turn on a television or open a newspaper without running into the criticism.

So here's your chance, Nevada. Demand that your community's portion of the money be returned.

If wicked old Clark County wants to keep its share of the loot, that doesn't preclude the state's rural counties from taking a righteous stand and marking the metaphorical envelopes containing those federal handout checks "Return to Sender." Even if it isn't effective, just think how much publicity your town will generate by tossing that federal handout back into Uncle Sam's face.

Of course, criticizing government waste is easy. Rejecting it when it's your turn at the trough is more difficult. A quick perusal of the particulars of Nevada's $100 million proves this out.

There's $807,500 for the Nevada Fair Housing Foreclosure Effort, and another $507,000 for the Access to Healthcare Network for uninsured Nevadans.

Remember the hepatitis C scandal? There's $523,000 earmarked for the Southern Nevada Health District to fight that battle.

There's nearly $1 million to assist the University of Nevada Health Sciences System nursing program and $856,000 each for the Clark County and Washoe County school districts for dropout prevention.

There's more than $800,000 for University of Nevada, Reno agriculture-related programs, and another $269,000 to help Carson City battle erosion that followed the 2004 Waterfall Fire.

Come on, Carson. Just say no.

While Clark and Washoe counties receive by far the greatest percentage of federal funding for public safety improvements for everything from training facilities to DNA labs, the city of Fernley in Lyon County is due to get $300,000 for law enforcement equipment.

While I've never thought much about the need for invasive weed control, there's $235,000 for those who do at the Nevada Department of Agriculture. Presumably, they'll be controlling invasive weeds somewhere in the middle of Great Basin cattle country.

There's $4.78 million for the Truckee Meadows Flood Control Project, another $2.5 million for Truckee Canal Reconstruction. There's more than $3 million for water treatment at Lake Tahoe and $18 million for "rural Nevada water infrastructure and water quality projects."

There's money to study wildlife habitat in central Nevada lakes and to restore the Lahontan cutthroat trout population.

Inside town limits, there's $608,000 to help Wells recover from its earthquake, $150,000 to restore St. Augustine's Church in Austin, $475,000 for the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, $190,000 for the Amargosa Valley Community Center, $300,000 for wastewater treatment in Goldfield, $1.5 million for an interpretive center in Elko, $285,000 for Truckee Meadows Community College low-income student recruitment, and $24,000 to help poor schoolchildren in Lincoln County.

One of my serious favorites is $381,000 for the Nevada Cancer Institute to fund the Hope Coach "mammovan," which will provide cancer screening for women in the state's many rural outposts. This is a great project, but then I like pork spending.

Don't misunderstand: There's plenty to criticize about earmarks and federal spending. Nevada's list of big government projects made me scratch my head several times.

And there are compelling philosophical arguments to be made against wide-open government checkbooks and big deficits. Frankly, I'll be happy to have that discussion -- as soon as lowly, care-worn Nevada finishes getting its share. Until then, I'll refrain from joining the Libertarian chorus.

That's the thing about pork.

It's easy to turn it down until the pig is roasted and the platter is passed to you.

John L. Smith's column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith/.