Friday, April 11, 2008

McCain Pins the Tail on the Donkey

John McCain must be a whiz at solitaire. It doesn’t seem to matter to him what the media, the polls, the opponents, or even fellow republicans say about him. He’s on a quiet mission, and the big poker game on the democrats’ side of the room be damned. It confuses the American public on occasion when McCain doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of support among his fellow politicians – republican or democrat, because we’ve all been programmed to believe the most exclusive club in America meets on Capital Hill and apparently McCain is not always a welcome member. So why is that?

For decades now, we as taxpayers have handed over our hard earned tax money like sheep to the government, and never questioned where it was going to any real extent. Now comes John McCain on the scene, another of those elected officials we voted into office, and he says he wants to be our President. He says that rampant wasteful spending on special interest projects is being snuck in by these people we voted in and trusted, and he says as President he will not only put a stop to this travesty by vetoing every pork laden bill placed in front of him but he will – pay attention here – “MAKE THEIR AUTHORS FAMOUS”. In other words, McCain wants to do more stop the porkers, he wants us to know exactly who they are - and that’s the part that hurts him in political circles. Nobody on the Hill wants to be exposed by name as a porker, so they poke at him with a sharp stick like he’s a rattlesnake about to bite them – and he is, and they’re afraid of him.

So exactly what is pork barrel spending and why should we care about it? By definition, a "pork" project is a line-item in an appropriations bill that designates tax dollars for a specific purpose in circumvention of established budgetary procedures, according to CAGW or Citizen’s Against Government Waste. These projects must meet at least one of the seven criteria established by the CAGW and The Congressional Porkbusters Coalition in 1991. The criteria is so simple to understand, even a Congressman should get it. It’s pork if it’s:

1) Requested by only one chamber of Congress
2) Not specifically authorized;
3) Not competitively awarded
4) Not requested by the President;
5) Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;
6) Not the subject of congressional hearings; or
7) Serves only a local or special interest.

The 2007 Congressional Pig Book identified 2,658 projects at a cost of $13.2 billion in the Defense and Homeland Security Appropriations Acts for fiscal 2007. 24 of these projects alone account for $2.4 billion. That figure is down from the 2006 figure of $29 billion, the drop attributed to the efforts of three republican senators who prevented the enactment of nine appropriations bills in December of 2006, and two of those senators have already publicly endorsed McCain for President.

On the other side of the room, Barack Obama is proud of the pork he brings home to his allies and donors in Illinois.

"My philosophy was that, if money was being distributed, then it would be inappropriate for me to not get my share for my district," Obama, now one of the U.S. Senate Democrats' leaders on ethics reform, said in an interview. "Did I think it was the best way to prioritize government spending? No."

From the Chicago Tribune:

“The Tribune analyzed 119 grants in which Obama steered more than $6 million for Chicago projects between late 1999 and late 2002, the heart of his Statehouse career and the center of a state government frenzy in which Obama said the pork-barrel process was "wide open."Typical of his grants was the $5,000 Obama delivered to the South Shore Public Library for chess equipment, books and knitting supplies, or the $5,000 to help the Sir Miles Davis Academy plaster and paint walls and repair windows.Obama steered $75,000 to a South Side charity called FORUM Inc., which promised to help churches and community groups get wired to the Internet. Records show five FORUM employees, including one who had declared bankruptcy, had donated $1,000 apiece to Obama's state Senate
campaign. As the grant dollars were being disbursed to FORUM, the Illinois attorney general filed a civil lawsuit accusing the charity's founder of engaging in an unrelated kickback scheme. Just days after the suit was filed, Obama quietly returned the $5,000 in donations. "I didn't want to be associated with money that potentially might have been tainted," he said. FORUM founder Yesse Yehudah, who unsuccessfully ran for state Senate against Obama in 1998, denied wrongdoing and, without admitting guilt, settled the attorney
general's lawsuit by paying $10,000 to a charity. He declined to comment. One of those long-time supporters was Rev. Michael Pfleger, the politically active leader of St. Sabina Church. He gave Obama's campaign $1,500 between 1995 and 2001, including $200 in April 2001, about three months after Obama announced $225,000 in grants to St. Sabina programs.Another supporter, Henry English, made two donations to Obama totaling $900 in 2001 after Obama helped send a $50,000 grant to a non-profit group that English ran, the Black United Fund of Illinois.

The Chicago-based Muntu Dance Theatre received a $4.5 million
grant to help pay for a $10 million cultural center. Obama's mentor in
Springfield, state Sen. Emil Jones (D-Chicago), sponsored the grant. And at the time $2.25 million of the grant was disbursed, Obama's wife, Michelle, sat on the non-profit dance group's board. Also, interesting to note, this African American Dance Theatre is also one of Obama’s personal tax deductions listed under “charity”.”

Last June Obama released a comprehensive list of his earmark requests for fiscal year 2008. It comprised more than $300 million of our taxpayer dollars for pet projects like these above for his state. In other words, Obama squeals like a pig – a pork barrel pig, even while he admits it’s not the “best way to prioritize government spending”, he does it anyway.

Simply put, a large number of our officials – Obama and Clinton included - are guilty of the same thing that our five year old is guilty of in the grocery store. You know what happens – you get to the check out counter and find all manner of cookies and candy in the cart that the child has snuck in when you weren’t looking, and he’s hoping you won’t notice and just go ahead and pay for them anyway. This is what our elected government officials are doing to us, and John McCain promises not only to take away their goodies when he’s President, but to call them out and give them a spanking right in front of us all. He won’t win any popularity contest on the Hill with this promise, but I’ll bet he gets some votes with it. He sure gets mine.