Friday, February 6, 2009

No fool

Congressional Budget Office, January 26, 2009:

In combining the spending and revenue effects of H.R. 1, CBO estimates that enacting the bill would increase federal budget deficits by $169 billion over the remaining months of fiscal year 2009, by $356 billion in 2010, by $174 billion in 2011, and by $816 billion over the 2009-2019 period.
CNN, April 15, 2008:
Last year Sen. Barack Obama, submitted a laundry list of federal funding requests, known as earmarks, to the Senate Appropriations Committee: 112 earmarks totaling more than $330 million in taxpayer funds.

But that was last year.

This year, as the Senate funding request deadline approaches and the final primaries of the Democratic nomination process draw near, Obama's staff told CNN the junior senator from Illinois will request no earmarks for fiscal year 2009.

The dramatic change is in line with a statement Obama issued last month in connection with an amendment calling for a one-year moratorium on earmarks in the Senate.

The amendment, sponsored by federal earmark foe Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, was shot down by a vote of 79-21.

"We can no longer accept a process that doles out earmarks based on a member of Congress' seniority, rather than the merit of the project," Obama's statement said.

"The entire earmark process needs to be re-examined and reformed. For that reason, I will be supporting Sen. DeMint's amendment and will not be requesting earmarks this year for Illinois," the statement added.
MSNBC, January 6, 2009:
On his second day in Washington, President-elect Obama met with his budget team and promised no earmarks will be in the stimulus plan.

"We are going to ban all earmarks -- the process by which individual members insert pet projects without review," he explained. "We will create an economic recovery oversight board made up of key administration officials and independent advisors to identify problems early and make sure we are doing all we can to solve it."

Video: President-elect Barack Obama tells reporters that the massive economic stimulus bill he wants Congress to pass will set a "new higher standard of accountability, transparency, and oversight."

When asked to clarify if some projects could be put in after they are reviewed, Obama drew a harder line.

"We will ban all earmarks in the recovery package," he said. "And I describe earmarks as the process by which individual members insert pet projects without review. So what I'm saying is, we're not having earmarks in the recovery package, period."
MSNBC, February 5, 2009:
In stimulus bills, earmarks by any other name
By Michael Grabell and Christopher Weaver

Lumped together, the House and Senate versions of the economic stimulus plan number some 1,400 pages, roughly the equivalent of the complete works of Shakespeare.

And some of the language is just as artfully crafted.

The package includes an insurance exemption — but only for companies that work on recreational boats longer than 65 feet. Another provision would lift a Medicare regulation affecting only three long-term care hospitals in the country. There’s also language requiring the Transportation Security Administration to buy 100,000 uniforms from U.S. apparel makers.

In theory and publicity, the package is “earmark free.” But it contains dozens of narrowly defined programs that send money to specific areas or cater to special interests, despite President Barack Obama’s pledge to pass “an economic recovery plan that is free from earmarks and pet projects.”

Some — like the yacht workers’ exemption — would take little or nothing from taxpayer pockets. Others, like $3 billion in extra transit money added by the House, are handing ammo to critics who say the stimulus plan, now at about $900 billion in the Senate, has morphed into a Christmas list.

As part of the ShovelWatch project with WNYC radio in New York, ProPublica plumbed the depths of the stimulus bills looking to see how closely Congress is coming to Obama’s stated goal.

What is an ‘earmark’?
In part, the answer hinges on the definition of an “earmark.” Democrats insist they are nowhere in the plan; Republicans see “pork” everywhere. So we cribbed from criteria Congress laid out in a 2007 reform bill: language that aims spending at specific programs, states or localities, often at a member’s request.

Specific location? The Senate stimulus contains $50 million for habitat restoration and other water needs in the San Francisco Bay Area. There is another $62 million for military projects in Guam.

Specific industry? The House bill includes an amendment authored by Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley setting aside $500 million for biofuel makers, which he says, would bring jobs home to Iowa.

Specific program? There’s $198 million to compensate Filipino World War II veterans for their service. Most don’t live in the United States.

In a speech about the stimulus last month, Obama acknowledged that there often are valid arguments for earmarks. At the same time, he called for restraint.

“Many of these projects are worthy and benefit local communities,” he said. “But this emergency legislation must not be the vehicle for those aspirations. This must be a time when leaders in both parties put the urgent needs of our nation above our own narrow interests.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1841:
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

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