Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why The GOP Stays Losing.

One thing that's always irked me is when politicians on both sides of the aisle rally against earmarks and "pork barrel spending". Yeah, some of what's funded to grease the skids in exchange for crucial votes is trivial. Folks will always point out such things as money for "lobster farming", or "researching the nocturnal habits of white mice" as proof that the gubb'ment spends like a drunken sailor. This has long been a great rallying cry on the campaign trail for rousing up populist support, because nobody likes seeing money wasted.

The problem with this mentality is twofold. Most "pork" makes up such a minuscule amount of most major spending bills (usually 1% or less) that getting tied up on such a matter smacks of missing the forest for the trees. And on the other side of the equation, aren't politicians supposed to be looking out for the very locales that put them in office? Behind every trivial "hiking trail in Western Montana" is a real person, with a real job as a result, and thousands of constituents who'll enjoy the benefits of new community centers, playgrounds, civic buildings, and the like. Not all pork is bad. In fact, most of it isn't.

This is why I never liked the idea of President Obama making such a big deal out of eliminating "wasteful spending" when he took office, and really saw it as a tit-for-tat to neutralize a primary strength of his opponent. If he really wanted to save some money, he'd cut defense spending, which even in times of peace accounts for 35% of the annual budget, but of course nobody will go for that. It's much easier carping on welfare, which usually accounts for %0.10 of the annual budget. Worrying about $50,000 to fund some random study in Utah is like the woman who wants to lose weight, so she drinks a Diet Coke with her SuperSized Double Quarter Pounder w/cheese combo. Again, forest-trees.

Of course, Obama hasn't done anything to stop earmarks since taking office, just like he hasn't been able to curb the influence of lobbyists. The much maligned stimulus package contained more pork than a Denny's Grand Slam, with the Dems accounting for 55% of all earmarks. Obama, naturally, said it wouldn't happen "next time", and decried this as "last year's business". Anyone thinking they can come to DC and change such an ingrained culture (Bush Jr. said the same, BTW) is either being childishly naive, or just plain dishonest. This is how things get done here, and how things will always get done here. Period.

But none of this stops the GOP from making less gubb'ment waste an annual rallying cry, even as they look the other way and stuff every bill full of goodies for their home districts. Despite spending the whole Summer at Tea Parties blaming President Obama for saddling our grandchildren's grandchildren with debt, the fact that these same ingrates accounted for 45% of the pork barrel spending in the very stimulus package they voted against sure wasn't lost on me. So I sure hope the fine folks of "Real America" don't fall for the okey doke again this time.
Sen. John McCain, who should know, once complained that Congress spends money on earmarks like a drunken sailor. This spending spree seen by penny-pinching Republican taxpayers was one of the central causes why the GOP lost both houses of Congress by the 2008 elections.

Now that the Democrats are in control, earmarks continue to pad appropriation bills but at a slightly lower level than when the Republicans were in charge. It’s still an obscene culture.

The watchdog group Taxpayers For Common Sense reported the omnibus spending bill passed by the House contains 5,224 earmarks costing about $3.9 billion of the total $447 billion measure. But, that’s only earmarks reported by House members voluntarily. Nor does it include the military spending bill which traditionally has more earmarks than all the other spending bills combined. That’s an average 12 earmarks for each House member.

No Republican voted for the bill but many of the projects included earmarks placed in the bill by the GOP before the final floor vote. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., is pushing $200,000 for the Washington National Opera. Sen. Judd Gregg, a fiscal hawk, is behind a $1 million earmark for renovation at the Portsmouth Music Hall.
So, again, I repeat, the GOP had plenty of earmarks in this bill, yet again. But will this stop them from going around and repeating the fallacy that they're the party of "fiscal responsibility"? Of course not. Because if there's one thing teabaggers don't do, it's read.[1]

Let this be a lesson for everyone: Pork isn't always bad. It's just bad when the Democrats are in power.

Politricks as usual.

Question: What do you think about earmarks? Is they always a bad thing, or should politicians be obligated to bring home the bacon to their constituents? Will the GOP's obvious hypocrisy about the use of earmarks come back to haunt them? Will Obama's obvious turning of a dead ear on the earmarks being thrown in the Omnibus bill come back to haunt him? Does anyone even give a sh*t about this issue, or is it purely election year populist pRon?

Fed Spending Falls On Deaf Ear(marks) [TheModerateVoice]

Watchdogs Cry Foul Over Thousands of Earmarks in Spending Bill [FoxNews]

[1] To John Boehner's credit, he actually hasn't ever taken an earmark. Too bad he can't rally his colleagues to do the same.

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