Sunday, March 15, 2009

"Share it fairly but dont take a slice of my pie..."

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This past week, President Obama signed a $410 billion spending bill that's supposed to carry us through September. Now, you or I could probably make it through to September on a lot less, but then, neither of us is a nation of 308 million people.

Predictably, the Republican Party is criticizing the bill over the 1 percent of the spending which they call "earmarks."

Ah, earmarks, the bogeyman du jour. Everybody claims to hate earmarks and wants them done away with. Problem is, no one can seem to come up with a definition of exactly what an earmark is. Pretty much everybody who complains about any earmark seems to define it as "a federally funded project in someone else's district."

Projects in the district of the person complaining, of course, are "vital economic development."

Take, for example, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who demanded on "Meet The Press" that Obama veto the bill because of all the earmarks. Host David Gregory pointed out that Graham's own Republican colleague, Honorable John McCain, had tagged a $950,000 Myrtle Beach Convention Center that Graham had put into the bill as an earmark.

Graham flip-flopped so fast I thought he must have been taking lessons from Mitt Romney. "I voted to take all earmarks out," he said, "but I will come back in the new process and put that back in." In other words, he was for it before he was against it, but he'll be for it again. The convention center, Graham insisted, is important. It will stimulate the economy of Myrtle Beach. Graham said bringing home the earmarks is his prerogative.

"I should have the ability as a United States senator to direct money back to my state as long as it's transparent and it makes sense," he said.

Well, yeah, Senator, and so does everybody else.

Nevertheless, the GOP and their shills in the media have made "earmarks" a major talking point, notwithstanding the fact that 40 percent of the identified "earmarks" in the bill were inserted by Republican lawmakers.

Over at Faux News, Sean Hannity smugly chuckled over Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin scoring "almost $2 million for swine odor and manure management, because those pigs and their manure, they do smell pretty bad. We need to do something about that."

Honorable John, who said during the campaign that he didn't even know how to use a computer, suddenly embraced the online messaging service Twitter to broadcast his 10 least favorite earmarks.

"$650,000 for beaver management in North Carolina and Mississippi," he twittered. "How do you manage a beaver?" (Much merriment ensued on the Internet over that one, let me tell you). He went on: "$1 million for Mormon cricket control in Utah -- is that the species of cricket or a game played by the Brits?"

This drew a swift response from a fellow Republican, Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah, where apparently the Mormon crickets aren't a joke; they're an agricultural plague of biblical proportions. "Maybe we ought to shoot some of the crickets over the border into Arizona," Bennett snapped.

You could use these line items as a topic for useful discussion about just what role the federal government needs to be playing in solving local or regional problems. You could, for example, discuss whether the feds should spend money to help states manage beavers, which do $100 million a year worth of real damage to farmland in North Carolina alone, or whether that money should come from cash-strapped state governments (and paid for by higher state taxes).

You could talk about whether the federal government should help in controlling the damage done to the health of real people by the air and water pollution coming from massive corporate-owned hog farms. You could ask: Since Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal complained about spending money on "something called volcano monitoring," does that mean that governors of states where volcanoes are a danger, like Hawaii and Washington, can beef about Jindal's state benefiting from "something called hurricane tracking"?

You could discuss, in short, whether we should change the country's motto from "E Pluribus Unum" to "I'm all right, Jack. Keep your hands off of my stack."

Or, as President Obama has done, you could admit that the spending bill is imperfect, sign it because we need to keep the government running, then propose ways to make the process better. Ways like requiring lawmakers to post their pet earmarks on their Web sites in advance and subjecting earmarks for private companies to competitive bidding. You know, you could act like a grownup.

But so far, Honorable John and his ilk seem to be interested only in the kind of bumper-sticker rhetoric that's plagued our discourse for the past few years, a thuggish, bully-boy sneering at things they don't understand. "Beavers! Crickets! Pig poop! HAW HAW HAW!"

Guess when you have eight houses like Honorable John, the problems of people in farm country are pretty funny. Funny enough, at least, to mock for political mileage. So who's the out-of-touch elitist again?

9 comments:

Mark Terry said...

Crickets, my friend, are what you hear when you ask Republicans, "So, what's YOUR plan for turning the economy around?"

JD Rhoades said...

Oh, they'll come right back with "Tax cuts! Tax cuts! Tax cuts and only tax cuts!" When you point out that we had eight years of tax cuts for the wealthy under Dubbya, the cuts are still in place under the "Pelosi congress" and the economy went in the dumper anyway...THAT'S when you hear the crickets.

Celine said...

Half right, Dusty. "Tax cuts and deregulation!"

And the next time I hear someone whining about 39.5%, I'm going to start by asking them if they thought Reagan was a good president, and then if they want to go back to the same tax rate they had under Reagan. (Which was 50%, for the benefit of anyone who hasn't seen one of those tax-rate charts yet.)

Fran said...

"Pretty much everybody who complains about any earmark seems to define it as "a federally funded project in someone else's district."

THAT is the best definition of an earmark I've ever heard, and it's so true! We're, what, five years old when it comes to things like this? "I want mine but you can't have yours. I want yours too!"

Dana King said...

I forget who said this (ti might have been Mencken; it sounds like something he would say), but for every problem there is a simple solution. And that solution is wrong.

Republicans have based their platform on simple solutions for thirty years; this is where it has put them.

The problem with earmarks isn't the spending; s your post shows, much earmark spending is worthy and necessary. The problem is the method if its insertion into the budget. All spending should be accountable and scrutinized. If that means Congress has to work a four-day week, so be it.

Or, we could cap how much money each member of Congress can earmark in a given fiscal year. Earmark whatever best benefits your district, but X is all you get, then see what your constituents think of your priorities.

charlie stella said...

JD wrote: Or, as President Obama has done, you could admit that the spending bill is imperfect, sign it because we need to keep the government running, then propose ways to make the process better. Ways like requiring lawmakers to post their pet earmarks on their Web sites in advance and subjecting earmarks for private companies to competitive bidding. You know, you could act like a grownup.

The problem is NOBODY protected the people in this. They all "SIGNED IT" without any stipulations to protect the people a) they're taking the money from and b) those getting the longest part of the shaft.

What about getting that part right first? Or did Obama think Wall Street could be trusted?

$25 billion to Citibank and they increase outsourcing 25%.

Banks get free money and we get to watch our retirement 401k money go up in smoke.

How about guaranteeing our money? How about stipulations to not only stop outsourcing, but to reverse whatever outsourcing that's already occurred?

And if you can't kill the outsourcing, then please explain to me the difference between this President and the last one (aside from his looks and presentation) ... because right now, all he's done is extend what Bush proposed with Tarp I. Obama and his party couldn't back that policy fast enough (after bashing him for 8 years, suddenly George Bush was an economic genius).

You're barking up the wrong trees complaining about Reps complaining about Dems.

Neither party gives a flying __ck about the middle and/or lower classes. This was all about big money protecting big money and the Messiah jumped right on that bandwagon with everybody else (behind George Bush's proposal).

Great.

Change I can believe in.

Yeah, right.

JD Rhoades said...

Charlie, every bill isn't designed to solve the problem of outsourcing. And the ones that do address it, you've angrily and bitterly discounted. So enjoy your anger, because there seems to be no way to assuage it.

JD Rhoades said...

Speaking of Republicans who can't answer "what's your plan?" Where's Joey Garnett?

Charlie Stella said...

The ones that do address it ... let's see ... the one that gives "tax incentives" for companies that don't outsource (I suppose you mean).

Except if you give a company that does outsource $25 billion, it seems to me, they probably aren't concerned about the tax incentives they don't have to take advantage of.

My anger? It seems you've got all your guns pointed in the wrong direction, JD ... you're still hitting at Reps as if they're the problem. Why not address Obama backing Bush (since you hated Bush so much)? It's a fact of life you can't ignore ... your guy backed the bailouts ... your guys were in charge of Congress the last two years of Bush's presidency and they gave him just about everything he wanted ... he proposes the bailout and your guys line up like ducks to jump on it.

My guys are on the sidelines in all this ... we're the ones paying for it. Your guys did squat for the people who voted them in. Zero protection for lots and lots of tax dollars ... something akin to what started this country (revolution). Let's hope it works ... and there is a revolution and we get rid of both absolutely USELESS parties.

Angry? This is me happy, brother. I didn't get laid off last week from one of my two jobs ... just 22 of my co-workers did.