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Earmarks and Hypocrisy

March 7, 2009

As the Obama proposed stimulus package (known as the (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) was introduced to law makers, the Republicans when conservative crazy calling the proposal “too costly. " And at times their verbiage was colorful and blunt, and while they seem wedded to the Presidend Hoover response to the Great Depression, calling for tax cuts, and freezes, and deregulation, the most hypocritical of their attacks is on earmarks. Failed Presidential Candidate, Senator McCain seems intend on spending all of his time attacking earmarks.

Earmarks seem like a lovely target for rage and a handy topic to point out the absurdity of the stimulus bill. Unfortunately, most Americans are not sure what an earmark actually is, so while they can tell by context that the attackers thing earmarks are stupid, and foolish, and cause unnecessary costs to tax-payers, that is not exactly a definition of an earmark.

Q: What is an earmark, and what is a good source to research earmarks and their sponsors?

A: Earmarks are government funds that are allocated by a legislator for a particular pet project, often without proper review.

If we accept the definition, then we could say earmarks are pet projects tucked into big bills so they get approved without much scrutiny, and often they are passed because the majority of voters don’t want to hold up an important spending bill just because there are a tiny number of these pet projects hidden within the bill. Yes, everyone who opposes the pet project is pissed off, however, the earmarks tend to represent only a very tiny percentage of the overall spending bill and to get them out would take weeks, or maybe months with long debate and careful scrutiny, and in the mean time the BIG thing they were needing to address as soon as possible just gets worse and worse.

While John McCain seems to be spending the majority of his time railing against earmarks in the Obama stimulus bill, it is interesting to note that the earmarks amount to about 1% of the money in the stimulus package. So McCain is spending most of his time focused on 1% of the stimulus package and ignoring 99% of the stimulus package.

The hypocrisy of the Republican reaction to earmarks comes from the fact that they are the source for MOST (not all but most) of the earmarks in the stimulus package. According to Taxpayers for Common Sense it was Republican Senator Peter King attached his name to 18 earmarks worth $218 million. Much of Senator King’s earmarks are for a rail road for Long Island . According to Senator King what he is spending is “. . . not pork but badly needed money for Long Island .”

When someone says the word earmark, and everyone else seems to move back as if it an earmark was fresh, pungent, and something you wouldn’t want to step in, well, then earmarks are just bad. But are all earmarks bad?

The proper answer, is YES and NO. It is unfortunate that we have so many hoops and games going on in the making of our laws and the budgeting of our government, but we do. I don’t like it, and maybe you don’t like it, but that is the way it is. We can try to control this crap and we should, but it is an effort that can never stop. As long as there is a public trough there are hungry hogs willing to take more than their share of it. But there are earmarks tucked into bills that do great, helpful, beneficial, compassionate good things for people.

My objection to earmarks is that it is secretive, the projects may or may not be worthy, but they pass as a sort of blackmail, by hiding within big spending bills and being more trouble than they are worth to weed out. This means earmarks pass because the earmark-ers are sneaky. Obviously it would be great to hold each and every spending project up to the light, hold town hall meetings all across the country and put every spending bill up for a referendum vote of the people, but that is just not going to happen because to try to make this happen would result in a bog down that would leave our country gridlocked, stopped, and chaos would result.

Just remember the following:

  1. While Republicans rail against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 there are more earmarks put into the bill by Republicans than by Democrats.
  2. We should continue to fight excessive spending and silly spending, but we can’t expect to end it, only to curb it.
  3. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is a temporary action intended to keep our economy from going bankrupt. This stimulus is not good, it is just better than a Great Depression II.

Yes, things seem to be getting worse. The unemployment numbers are getting worse. Companies we tried to help are still begging for more money and their prospects look grim. What Obama is doing is planning seed. I live in a metropolitan area but work in a rural county. Driving to work each morning takes me from buildings and asphalt to rolling fields. At this time of the year, with so much of the vegetation dead from Winter, it is odd to see huge fields of deep green. It is winter wheat. It occurred to me that what Obama is doing is planting seeds for economic growth. Farmer’s know that you just don’t get immediate results from planting seeds. You have to give the seed time to germinate, sprout, and reach fruition. You also have to monitor, and provide the conditions needed to ensure that what is planted is nurtured into maturity. If the farmer got all frustrated and said, “This is taking too damn long,” and plowed up the fields to plant something different he wouldn’t be better off he would be worse off.

What is happening with our economy is similar to planting a crop. The results are coming, but it will take time, and monitoring, and providing the things needed to create a crop. We can give up, and try something different, but we will be destroying the seeds of success. Give it time. The green is coming.

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