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Some Pig! March 9, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Barack Obama, Democrats, Economic Stimulus, Economy, National Politics, Politics, Republicans.
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wilburCall them earmarks, call it pork, but Old Man McCain is certainly grabbing attention over the $7.7 billion in spending included in the fiscal 2009 budget.   “Shocking!”, he says, “Wasteful!” with as much umbrage as the cranky old man next door who hates it when you cross his lawn. 

The earmarks that have McCain’s panties in a twist represent less than 2% of the $410 billion spending bill.  The news organizations are huffing and puffing over $1.7 million for pig odor research in Iowa and $200,000 to help California ex-gang members rid themselves of tattoos.  Utterly irresponsible!

Sure they are – unless you’re the poor suburban Iowan who – because of  lax agricultural regulation the past 8 years – lives down the road from a stinking acre-square pig shit lagoon.   Or you’re the young Angelino trying to leave a life of crime and violence behind but nobody will hire you because of your teardrop tattoo.

I watched Sen. Lindsay Graham on “Meet the Press” yesterday squirm over his earmarks, including $950,000 for the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.  By some counts, Graham has over 37 earmarks in the bill.   He defended this one by saying that Myrtle Beach needed an “international” convention center and since it would be “international” it would serve a federal purpose (?????????).  Gently chiding him for hypocrisy, “MTP” moderator David Gregory asked, “You’ve got 37 earmarks, and you think they’re more important than other people’s projects around the country?”

The point is not that Graham’ earmarks are MORE important than anyone else’s, it is that they are JUST AS important.  Sitting here in New York, I may think a Cowboy Museum in South Dakota is absolutely ridiculous – but those people there may see that museum as a way to bring in money to their state, easing the tax burden on citizens.  I’m sure that South Dakotan’s think that $2.1 million for New York’s Center for Grape Genetics is a waste.

What most people don’t understand about earmarks is that they come out of money that is already in the budget.  According to Dave Gonigam at lewrockwell.com, “earmarks come out of a total amount of federal spending that’s carved in stone before the earmarks are ever doled out to the lawmakers. In other words, the money’s going to get spent anywayThe only difference is that with earmarks, individual lawmakers get a little bit of say in how it gets spent.”

For many communities, funding via earmark is the only way possible to afford research, new roads and bridges, highway improvements, tourist attractions, and, yes, convention centers.  The current earmark hysteria is just another red herring – a “look over here” tactic to distract all of us from the real problem of a nation falling apart at the seams due eight years of ignorance and neglect.  And that is something that the Republicans have always been VERY good at. 

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