The term earmark comes from the practice of marking the ears of livestock for identification, yet in American politics it has come to mean money that is “set aside for a special project or purpose”: AKA pet projects, pork. As I’m sure that animals are not thrilled by this procedure, I am more confident that Congress and their frivolous spending outrages the American people.
According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, an independent watchdog organization states “widespread earmarking is a relatively new phenomenon in American politics, which gained momentum in the 1970′s”. Pork in a bill in Congress is as common as a hot dog at a football game. Moreover there continues to be a rise in pork barrel spending and there is no getting around it; both Republicans and Democrats are part of this Congressional excess and waste.
During the first presidential debate Senator John McCain and then Senator Barack Obama argued over the earmark issue, and Obama pledged, “Absolutely, we need earmark reform. And when I’m president, I will go line by line to make sure that we are not spending money unwisely.” Hold your applause please; I’m just getting started!
Considering the White House continues to proclaim that “we are in the worst economic crisis since the great depression”, why does Congress keep spending money on flippant projects. It’s one thing to spend money when we are flying high in prosperity, but when we are drowning in debt, it doesn’t make sense.
Any intelligent American household would have enough common sense to cut out the “extra stuff” when they are facing dire financial times; why doesn’t Washington? Are they that ignorant, unwilling or are they just self-serving?
We started 2009 spending; when Congress passed the urgent $800 billion Economic Stimulus Package claiming that it would create jobs and save our economy. Almost a year later and as we continue to await the arrival of our jobs, we do know that the White House Recovery.gov website, which costs over 18 million dollars to renovate, reported that thousands of jobs were saved in Congressional Districts that don’t exist. Not to mention that stimulus checks were sent out to dead people and inmates. But, that’s another story.
While the stimulus package was in the midst of scrutiny, President Obama said, ‘”Members of Congress won’t be allowed to slip earmarks into the economic recovery package Congress will soon take up. And concluded “we are going to bring a long-overdue sense of responsibility and accountability to Washington.” “We are going to stop talking about government reform, and we’re actually going to start executing.”
The Republicans claimed that there were over 9,000 earmarks with an estimated value at $7.7 billion in the stimulus and the Democratic leadership estimated the dollar amount to be around $3.8 billion. But President Obama bragged, “We passed a recovery plan free of earmarks,” and on many fronts, has blasted earmarks. In February Robert Gibbs declared victory on the earmark front maintaining there were “no earmarks” in the stimulus package, yet politifact.com Truth-O-Meter found his statement to be FALSE. I guess that is the nice way of saying “you lie”.
Congress continued this pattern and in March of this year passed an Omnibus Spending bill at a price tag of $410 billion, which contained 9,287 pork projects at a cost of nearly $12.8 billion.
Contrary to his campaign promise, President Obama signed that bill too, however, the White House did have an excuse. In an exclusive interview with ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos White House Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Peter Orszag told Stephanopoulos, “This is last year’s business. We want to just move on”. Orszag also stated that Obama intends to work on earmark reform in the future.
Even Chris Matthews, one of Obama’s biggest fans, criticized Obama for breaking his earmark reform pledge.
Now we end 2009 with yet another spending fiasco. Over the weekend the Senate was at it again and passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill. The 1,000-page-plus package passed with a 57-35 vote and now heads to President Obama for his signature.
According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, there are 5224 earmarks worth $3.998 billion, and that is just the preliminary round. Included in the list of pork barrel spending are “home-state projects sought by individual lawmakers in both parties”. While the legislation also contains numerous items not directly related to spending, it also approves a 2 percent pay increase for federal workers.