Tons of pork
One cup of lobbyists
A dash of special interests
1. Take a bill, any bill will do actually, and combine ingredients. Mix well so taxpayers have a hard time distinguishing what is pork and and what is beneficial to the general public.
2. Debate in front of the press, blaming the opposition for holding up negotiations on the bill.
3. Vote under the political cover of some provisions of the bill, approving the measure even if the majority of Americans think it's a bad idea.
That is exactly what happened in Washington last night, as the Senate moved to approved 74-25 a Wall Street bailout plan that now totals about $800 billion of taxpayer money. The only senator who did not vote was Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) who is recuperating from his serious illness.
Here is video of congressional negotiators discussing what to throw at the problem:
Seriously, the most noteworthy yes votes came from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), both of who have pledged in the presidential campaign to fight pork barrel spending. Both tossed aside their campaign pledges to the American taxpayers last night.
Here's Obama's policy statement on park-barrel spending as seen on his website, barackobama.com:
Shine Light on Earmarks and Pork Barrel Spending: Obama's Transparency and Integrity in Earmarks Act will shed light on all earmarks by disclosing the name of the legislator who asked for each earmark, along with a written justification, 72 hours before they can be approved by the full Senate.
Well, that sure didn't happen last night.
McCain is in the same boat. He has often pledged to veto earmarks and pork-barrel spending, most notably in the recent debate where he said he would use his pen to reject such bills, and even pointed to his old pen in his hand. He made the same statements in his speech to the National Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C. last June.
Here is what can be found on JohnMcCain.com, his campaign's official website. The bold face is my addition:
Among the most glaring abuses in Washington is the willful setting aside of taxpayer dollars for the pet projects of special interests, often through last minute additions to appropriations bills. Pork barrel spending is an insult to taxpayers, a waste of public resources, and an abdication of our leaders' responsibility to be good and honorable stewards of the public treasury, for the benefit of all Americans, not just a few.
... As President, John McCain would shine the disinfecting light of public scrutiny on those who abuse the public purse, use the power of the presidency to restore fiscal responsibility, and exercise the veto pen to enforce it.
It's discouraging to see that both candidates tossed away their fundamental principals last night. Unfortunately, you and I are the ones who have to dig deeper to pay for it.
USNews.com had this report on the prospects in the House, which rejected a similar bill a few days ago:
Reporting on the upcoming House vote, The Politico says "caution is still the watchword," but "the revised Senate package blends in more than $100 billion in popular tax breaks as well as aid to rural schools important to House Republicans. And to build support among small town community banks, the bill raises the cap on insured deposits from $100,000 to $250,000." The New York Times also reports House leaders appear "increasingly confident that politically enticing provisions attached to the original bill...would win over at least the dozen or so votes needed to reverse Monday's outcome and send the measure to President Bush." Likewise, the AP says the measure is "gaining ground in the House, where Republicans opposition softened." The Hill offers a similar assessment.
Here is the text of the bill, it's a 451-page pdf file if you dare. Lets look at some of the additions to the bill as reported by HotAir.com:
New Tax earmarks in Bailout bill
- Film and Television Productions (Sec. 502)
- Wooden Arrows designed for use by children (Sec. 503)
- 6 page package of earmarks for litigants in the 1989 Exxon Valdez incident, Alaska (Sec. 504)
Tax earmark “extenders” in the bailout bill.
- Virgin Island and Puerto Rican Rum (Section 308)
- American Samoa (Sec. 309)
- Mine Rescue Teams (Sec. 310)
- Mine Safety Equipment (Sec. 311)
- Domestic Production Activities in Puerto Rico (Sec. 312)
- Indian Tribes (Sec. 314, 315)
- Railroads (Sec. 316)
- Auto Racing Tracks (317)
- District of Columbia (Sec. 322)
- Wool Research (Sec. 325)
The Financial Times had this to say about the pork, hitting it dead on:
Proposed rules on rum excise tax to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the tax treatment of washing machines and “exemption from excise tax for certain wooden arrows designed for use by children” all feature in the financial rescue package being considered by the US Senate.
While the link between such measures and the US administration’s $700bn bail-out proposals might not be immediately clear, in truth they represent a tried and tested approach to deal with problems on Capitol Hill.
The previous compromise proposals, pulled together last weekend, focused on issues directly related to the plan, such as administrative oversight and executive pay. By contrast, the latest attempt to get a deal includes wholly extraneous measures to win the support of individual members and groups in congress.