Monday, September 15, 2008

Pork 'n Palindemonium . . . At The Wall St. Journal?

The WSJ is a conservative paper and a fair one - but today it tosses out the intellectual honesty for which it is famous and jumps on the bash Palin bandwagon. If she is deserving, that's one thing. But that is far from obvious in an incredibly poorly written piece by Laura Meckler and John Wilke. In their bill of particulars against Gov. Palin, the authors completely obfuscate the difference between a legitimate spending request and that corrupt bane of our modern Congress, the earmark that passes outside the normal legislative channels to become law without debate or vote.

The WSJ has today what amounts to a hit piece on Gov. Palin. The authors claim that, because Gov. Palin has requested funding for specific projects, she is not a fiscal reformer and, indeed, is every bit the porker at the public trough that Obama is. You can read the article here.

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the term "earmark." Historically, the term has meant no more than simply designating funds to a specifc project. In recent years, the term "earmark" has also come to refer to a corrupt practice whereby funding requests are inserted in committee reports, never being debated or voted upon, yet treated as having the force of law.

I wrote about this the other day here when it was clear from the questions he was asking that Charlie Gibson, in his interview with Gov. Palin, was unable to tell the difference between an earmark and a legitimate spending request. And indeed, in justifying her claim to being a reformer, that is precisely what Gov. Palin explained to Charlie Gibson. You can watch it here.

If you want to see how the corrupt version of earmarking works, Democratic Sen. Carl Levin provides the example. He is about to get $5.9 billion dollars worth of earmarks sent out of his committee in the Defense Appropriations Bill. None will be debated. None will be voted upon. They represent a wholly broken and corrupt process.

But as mentioned above, not all specific spending requests that fall within the generic definition of "earmark" are of the corrupt kind. Quite often, specific spending requests are to fund spending required of the state by unfunded federal mandates. And there are host of other reasons that justify reasonable specific spending requests that every state requests. They are not pork and they are submitted through the normal legislative process. All of this is ignored in the horrendous article in today's WSJ. The authors of that article lump together every spending request made by Gov. Palin as the Governor of Alaska and label it all as earmarks. To call this sloppy and biased reporting is a grotesque understatement.

It is beyond dispute that Gov. Palin has drastically reduced the spending requests for federal dollars made by the government of Alaska. As Gov. Palin wrote in an op-ed in an Anchorage newspaper some months ago:

[M]y administration has recommended funding for specific projects and programs when there is an important federal purpose and strong citizen support.

This year, we have requested 31 earmarks, down from 54 in 2007. Of these, 27 involve continuing or previous appropriations and four are new requests. The total dollar amount of these requests has been reduced from approximately $550 million in the previous year to just less than $200 million. . . .

Patterico takes a look at many of the requests made by Alaska under Gov. Palin:

. . . if you look at the document that Smith links, you quickly get feel for the fact that many of the earmarks are requests for funding that are completely legitimate, and many relate to unfunded mandates imposed upon Alaska by federal legislation like the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. Several examples are set forth after the jump.

Here is the link to the document setting forth the Alaska appropriation requests. Here are a few examples of the justification for the request:

“Meets the increased needs under the Magnuson-Stevens Act for developing regional fishery coordinated databases.”

“This is an ongoing effort to collect data on the recreational hailbut fishery that is conducted by federal agencies though relying on the state for data.”

“Provides state funding for management of federal fisheries, including Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands king crab and tanner crab, weathervane scallops and groundfish.” . . .

Read the entire post. As Patterico notes, taking even the most jaundiced eye towards the spending requests made by Gov. Palin, none come close to asking for a $1 million earmark for her spouse's employer which just happens to coincide with a tripling of her salary. And indeed, you can compare the requests made by Ms. Palin with the list of earmarks released by Obama during the Democratic primaries. Go ahead. Do a little research - and be a bit more discening than the WSJ has been today. More links to posts on this at Memorandum.

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