Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pork In The Night

It is not the title of the latest pornographic flick, merely the latest senatorial obscenity.


Senators John McCain and Jim DeMint sponsored a bill that would have placed a moratorium on earmarks for a year. The odious Harry Reid, the man who recently attempted to defend the earmark process as part of constitutional system at its inception, scheduled a vote on the bill late in the eve when reporting on it would be at a minimum. This from the WSJ:

For Congressional Appropriators, Thursday night's vote cashiering the earmark moratorium was an embarrassment of riches, with some 71 Senators endorsing Capitol Hill's spending culture. For everyone else, it was merely embarrassing.

The amendment, sponsored by Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), would have imposed a one-year earmark freeze, and it seemed to be gaining momentum earlier in the week, even cheered on by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. But the Appropriations empire struck back, twisting every arm to preserve its spending privileges. The measure was voted down after being ruled "non-germane" to the budget. That's as good a measure as any of the Congressional mentality: Apparently earmarks, which totaled $18.3 billion for 2008, aren't relevant to overall spending.

Just three Republican Appropriators voted for the amendment, including surprise support from longtime skeptic Mitch McConnell. No such shockers from the Democrats, with all Appropriators going against and only six Senators bucking the party line, especially Missouri's Claire McCaskill, one of the more courageous antipork champions.

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton no doubt backed the moratorium to insulate themselves against one of John McCain's signature themes. But they're also bending to the broader political winds. In an election year, voters understand the waste and corruption that pork enables, leading even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to say, "I'm losing patience with earmarks."

That Mr. McCain's Republican colleagues fail, or refuse, to recognize the political potency is not a good sign. More GOP Senators voted against the moratorium than voted for it, proving that they are just as complacent about pork as most Democrats. And this vote comes on the heels of offenses like appointing ranking GOP Appropriator Thad Cochran ($837 million in pork last year) to the earmark-reform "working committee." The Republicans appear to be settling in comfortably with their minority status.

Read the entire article. And there is more on the vote at Hot Air, including a list of the Senators who voted against the bill. I suspect the votes of Clinton, Obama and McConnell were little more than an attempt to innoculate themselves from criticism. All three are committed porkers.

Q&O, in defining the problems with pork, had this to say:

1. Earmarks are not a significant fiscal problem - certainly not when compared to entitlements or other programs.

2. However, earmarks are the primary fulcrum for outside interests to corrupt the legislative process. Earmarks are the source of much of the undue power of individual Congressmen.

3. Earmarks aren't just corruption bait, though. They are also an Incumbent Slush Fund, allowing politicians to spread the pelf around their State/District to secure votes and favor. Perhaps we should start counting them as de facto campaign contributions. That's exactly how they are used.

I would add a fourth paragraph to that, and that is that the earmark process itself is corrupt. This from an article on earmarks in the Daily Standard.

President Bush seems to grasp the issue. A year ago he publicly complained that "over 90 percent of earmarks never make it to the floor of the House and Senate. They are dropped into committee reports that are not even part of the bill that arrives on my desk. You didn't vote them into law. I didn't sign them into law. Yet, they're treated as if they have the force of law."

Earmarks are corrupting and, unfortunately, a wholly bipartisan addiction. In an era where our long term fiscal health is very much at issue and out of control spending threatens the long-term viability of our nation, earmarks are not simply a minor problem, but an obscene emblam of corruption and an existential jettisoning of fiscal discipline. For conservatives, watching our Republican legislators dine at the trough is the equivalent of watching Nero fiddle while Rome burns.

George Will, in a column a month ago, gave the sordid blow by blow description of how earmarks, if not outright corruption, certainly dance on the knife's edge of corruption. Certainly the worst excesses of this corrupt system are also often a complete waste of taxpayer funds.

Most recently, we learn from the Obama camp that he secured a million dollar earmark for the University of Chicago Hospitals, where his wife is employed as VP of Community Affairs. Once Obama was elected Senator, the University nearly tripled her salary to $316,962. Is this corruption? I am sure it is not in the criminal sense, but it certainly has the stench of corruption and quid pro quo about it.

The first step to getting a handle on out of control government spending will be an end to the modern practice of earmarks. And the only chance of that happening is if McCain is elected and crams it down the throats of our corrupt Republican Senators.


KG said...

A damn good post.I love seeing these clowns exposed.
Mind if I 'borrow" your smiling pig? There are times when that would be the perfect accompaniment to political/islam stories. :-)

GW said...

Thanks for the kind words, and you are of course welcome to take the smiling pig.