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?
Sunday, March 15, 2009
"Share it fairly but dont take a slice of my pie..."
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Posted by JD Rhoades at Sunday, March 15, 2009