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