Earmarks, Pork-barrel Spending

March 8, 2009

By Padmini Arhant

The budget vote delayed due to enormous ‘pork’ in the $410 billion spending bill. The defenders of various pork projects may have their own justification.

Nevertheless, Washington must relinquish wasteful spending through several pet projects carried out on behalf of lobbyists by lawmakers concerned about their own job security in the future elections.

As stated earlier in the article “Omnibus Spending” on the website www.padminiarhant.com , the nation is grappling with dire economic situation due to significant job losses and housing crisis at this time and families are desperately seeking relief from both free market system and the government.

Unfortunately, the free market system dependent on taxpayers’ bailout is barely capable of remaining solvent despite unprecedented capital infusion in modern financial history. The root cause of all these problems attributed to lack of ethics, accountability, transparency and importantly executive management failure.

The critics of taxpayers’ bailout argue in favor of non-interference in the market economy on the assumption the system would correct itself in due course. They fail to recognize the fact that the economic meltdown commenced in the early 2000, though the impact was not acknowledged up until late 2007.

During that limited or non-regulatory period, the capitalist system had ample opportunities to review and reassess their performance and prepare them for the worst scenario.

However, it did not happen, even though Wall Street witnessed and experienced the collapse of Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, Global Crossing all in the year 2002 resulting from failed Corporate management, unethical accounting practices and blatant greed.

Somehow, the free market advocates seem to have forgotten these events because of their inability then to envision the domino effect on the entire economy in the immediate future. Another reason for the denial of economic crisis previously was the skyrocketing of the technology stocks combined with oil and defense stocks at the phenomenal cost of American taxpayers’ dollars and human lives in Iraq war.

The financial sector created its own superficial boom during that time with the concoction of subprime mortgages and diverse toxic assets bundled together and sold by the hedge fund managers in the overseas markets. This entire taking place while the past administration was preoccupied in the implementation of unjust Iraq war.

It is unequivocally a miserable failure on the part of the predecessors in Federal Reserve, Treasury department as well as the Securities Commission primarily responsible for monitoring and evaluating the daily market events and executing necessary precautionary measures to prevent the economy from overheating.

Surprisingly, with the history of ‘Great Depression’, Oil crisis, economic recessions, one would assume that the authorities would remain alert and watch over the economy with prudent advice against extravagant spending in unnecessary wars or at least demanded the administration engaging in wasteful spending provide legitimate cost and benefit investment analysis.

The gridlock in Washington or State legislature is contributed by political ideologies resisting flexibility to resolve any crisis. The fiscal conservatives steadfast against tax increases, the predominant revenue source for any government, consistently target essential programs designed to promote consumer spending vital for economic recovery.

Similarly, the spendthrift legislators on both aisles with a penchant for pet projects or pork spending refuse to yield to frugality and prioritize their commitments to lobbyists and local governments assuring their re-election over national interest.

The electorate voted for Change in 2008 and change has hope only with representatives in Congress and Senate quitting habits that create rather than solving crisis.

It is evident that the $410 billion spending bill is injected with significant pork projects and it would be appropriate for the sponsors to present cost / benefit ratio in monetary terms to justify inclusion in the bill.

Again, these projects must be evaluated to benefit the taxpayers and the nation as a whole rather than the individuals regardless of them being legislators or the lobbyists.

The lawmakers have lately advised ordinary citizens to downsize their lifestyle according to their means, the same should apply to them as any sermons, preaching, and advice is meaningful when individuals demonstrate through action.

After all, shouldn’t one practice what they preach others?

No matter how one circumvents the legitimacy of earmarks particularly at these tough economic times, it is inappropriate now and in the future to squander taxpayers’ dollars for far-fetched projects with beneficiaries being the authorizing entity and/or special interests rather than the entire nation.

Please refer to the following articles from other sources for data confirmation on earmarks / pork barrel spending.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant

Senate Republicans force delay on budget vote:

GOP Members want to offer Amendments on $410 billion plan criticized for Pork – By Andrew Taylor,

Associated Press – Thank you.

Washington – Senate Republicans, demanding the right to try to change a huge spending bill, forced Democrats on Thursday night to put off a final vote on the measure until next week.

The surprise development will force Congress to pass a stopgap-funding bill to avoid a partial shutdown of the government.

Republicans have blasted the $410 billion measure as too costly. But the reason for GOP unity in advance of a key procedural vote was that Democrats had not allowed them enough opportunities to offer amendments.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., canceled the vote, saying he was one vote short of the 60 needed to close debate and free the bill for President Barack Obama’s signature.

The 1,132-page spending bill is stuffed with pet projects sought by lawmakers in both parties.

Democrats and their allies control 58 seats, though at least a handful of Democrats oppose the measure over its cost or changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba. That meant Democrats needed five or six Republican votes to advance the bill.

None of the GOP’s amendments is expected to pass, but votes on perhaps a dozen are now slated for Monday night, Reid said.

The huge, 1-132-page spending bill awards big increases to domestic programs and is stuffed with pet projects sought by lawmakers in both parties. The measure has an extraordinary reach, wrapping together nine spending bills to fund the annual operating budgets of every Cabinet department except for Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs.

Once considered a relatively bipartisan measure, the measure has come under attack from Republicans – and a handful of Democrats – who say it is bloated and filled with wasteful, pork-barrel projects.

The measure was written mostly over the course of last year, before projected deficits quadrupled and Obama’s economic recovery bill left many of the same spending accounts swimming in cash.

To the embarrassment of Obama – who promised during last year’s campaign to force Congress to curb its pork-barrel ways – the bill contains 7,991 pet projects totaling $5.5 billion, according to calculations by the GOP staff of the House Appropriations Committee.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Obama’s opponent in last fall’s presidential campaign, called the measure “a swollen, wasteful, egregious example of out-of-control spending.”

The earmarks run the gamut. There’s $190,000 for the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo., $238,000 to fund a deep-sea voyaging program for native Hawaiian youth, agricultural research projects, and grants to local police departments, among many others.”


Further Excerpt of the article –

Sen. John McCain blasts $237,500 for Japantown museum – By Frank Davies, Mercury News Washington Bureau – Thank you.

Reps, Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, and Mike Honda, D-Campbell, secured that money to help the museum.
Honda, who is Japanese American, – “Jap. Museum boost tourism (thus jobs) in SJ Japantown, last of 3 authentic US Japantowns, Zoe & I proudly supported its funding.”

Omnibus Spending

March 5, 2009

March 5, 2009

It has been the topic of the day and rightfully so. The American taxpayers’ wallet is drained for various bailouts from financial institutions to auto industry and others waiting in line for their respective turn.

Is it the present administration’s fault that the nation is dependent on borrowings and charity?

The response varies as it depends on the network and the guests appearing on the programs to discuss economy, finance and stock market.

Those nostalgic about the previous administration claim that it is entirely the current administration’s fault.

For some reason their calculation of the incumbent administration in office since swearing in i.e. January 20, 2009 up until now works out to three months, unless they have a custom made calendar that converts every year into leap year with some months extending beyond thirty one days and somehow only the Democratic administrations are privileged to such magical occurrence.

To shed light on the relevant topic of spending bill $410 billion approved by the Senate and awaiting the President’s signature, there appears to be some legitimate concerns regarding the infamous “earmarks” or “pork barrel” issue that always finds its way into every legislative bill.

According to news media, 40% of GOP members and 60% of Democrats are responsible for the estimated 8,570 earmarks worth $7.7billion . The following article supports it.

March 4, 2009

Senate votes to keep earmarks in bill – By David Espo, Associated Press – Thank you.

“The Senate voted overwhelmingly to preserve thousands of earmarks in a $410 billion spending bill Tuesday, brushing aside Senator John McCain’s claim that President Barack Obama and Congress are merely conducting business as usual in a time of economic hardship.

McCain’s attempt to strip out an estimated 8,500 earmarks failed on a vote of 63-32.

The Arizona’s senator’s proposal also would have cut roughly $32 billion from the measure and kept spending a last year’s levels in several federal agencies.

Last year’s Republican presidential candidate said both he and Obama pledged during the campaign to “stop business as usual in Washington,” and he quoted the president as having said he would go line by line to make sure money was spent wisely.

The White House has said Obama intends to sign the legislation, casting it as leftover business from 2008. Spokesman Robert Gibbs pledged Monday that the White House will issue new guidelines covering earmarks for future bills.

McCain’s proposal drew the support of 30 Republicans and two Democrats, and the outcome reflected the enduring value of earmarks to lawmakers. While polls routinely show these pet projects to be unpopular, local governments and constituents often covet them.

The maneuvering came on legislation to assure continued funding for several federal agencies past March 6. At $410 billion, the bill represents an 8 percent increase over last year’s spending levels, more than double the rate of inflation.

Republicans made two other attempts during the day to reduce spending in the bill, but failed both times.

Sen. Dan Inouye, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said McCain’s call to hold spending level with a year ago “doesn’t account for inflation.”

As an example, he said some programs would have to be cut if federal workers were to receive a pay raise.

The House passed the legislation last week, and Democratic leaders are working to clear it without changes so the president can sign it by Friday.

While Republican opposition in the House focused more on the bill’s overall spending, McCain and allies turned the Senate spotlight squarely on earmarks.

“How does anyone justify some of these earmarks:

$1.7 million for pig odor research in Iowa;

$2 million ‘for the promotion of astronomy’ in Hawaii;

$6.6 million for termite research in New Orleans;

$2.1 million for the Center for Grape Genetics in New York,” he said.

He also noted the legislation includes 14 earmarks requested by lawmakers for projects sought by PMA Group, a lobbying company at the center of a federal corruption investigation. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla, said he would seek to have them removed.

Taxpayers for Common Sense estimates the legislation contains 8,570 disclosed earmarks worth $7.7 billion. House Democrats declined to provide an estimate of the number of pet projects in the bill, and put their cost at $3.8 billion.”



It is evident from the article and news media discussions that this particular bill primarily aimed at stimulating the economy has some of its priorities mixed up. As stated earlier in my article “Economic Recovery Plan” earmarks or estimates for pet projects is a contentious issue with notable reasons for objection by some lawmakers.

This is no longer a partisan issue as both parties have participants in varying percentages responsible for wasteful spending. On the one hand, we have economic turmoil with American families receiving pink slips instead of paychecks and children literally dependent on charity for survival.

There are worse situations like in the golden state of California, northern Californian school district is forcing K-12 students in public schools to stay home on Friday, making it a four-day week due to again “messed up priorities” by the State legislators. The victims in the merciless fund slashing are none other than the educators and students.

Qualified teachers’ job contracts are terminated because of severe cuts in essential programs like education. The head of this state living up to the reputation of the title “Terminator” leaving students seeking help from parents, peer group, neighbors, and strangers/aliens on the cyber space or even outer space.

Do the pet projects’ sponsors have any idea how desperate the situation is for those struggling to make ends meet particularly with a fear mongering of the “socialism” concept by the capitalist panderers denying the failure of capitalism in the absence of regulatory process?

What does this mean to parents dealing with job insecurity and lack of support to take care of the children on the day, they should be in school?

Hoping the children will be protected by guardian angels while they are at work and risking visits from a social worker on accounts of child neglect and possible abuse.

Those who lack the support of extended family relying on hired help in this perilous economy have to choose between the safety of their children and the tight family budget, since borrowing is out of question with indefinite freezing of the credit market to families and small businesses.

One might assume the federal aid to states should address these problems. Even though the federal aid has been approved for this purpose, whatever benefits allocated for education and relief to families in the federal stimulus package is siphoned off by the state budget targeting the same programs.

The state legislators had to emerge victorious in the long fought battle to balance the budget using people at the bottom of the socio-economic scale as the sacrificial lambs.

Obviously, on the other hand both state and federal lawmakers favoring the pet projects vigorously debate in the House and the Senate floor to defend their own jobs as pet projects is an insurance for re-election in their constituency.

If surplus funds are the reasons for earmarks, why not allocate those funds to the deserving entity i.e. the taxpayers in the economy. It would make sense for taxpayers to use their own money to spend on their dependents’ education, health care and housing payments.

It is conclusive that earmarks like the ones highlighted in the articles should have never been inserted in the first place, and now regardless of whose business is being taken care of i.e. whether previous or present administration, the burden is squarely on the taxpayers with the passing of this bill loaded with unnecessary and meaningless pet projects.

American taxpayers were promised on the campaign trail about the elimination of earmarks by both parties and now is the time to honor that commitment without any reservation.

In the real world, students can enroll in the best educational institutions only upon excellent academic achievement, similarly secure dream jobs (during the glorious days) and stick with it purely on competence.

Unfortunately, the entities to whom the criteria should apply i.e. Washington and Wall Street are exempt from performance based hiring or firing despite their successful duo disastrous mismanagement of the world’s economic power, the U.S. economy.

Taxpayers as voters have the power to promote and implement the agenda in 2010 to realize the campaign slogan “Change is effective when it happens from the bottom up and not from the top bottom.”

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant