Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Just What Are Those "little, tiny–yes, porky–amendments" Schumer Speaks Of?

Congress Wins Our 'Useless Git Of The Week' Award!

Well, among many, many others:
  • $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that hasn't turned a profit in 40 years
  • $2 billion for child-care subsidies
  • $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, (building giant shuttlecocks and bronzing old sneakers will help the economy how?)
  • $400 million for global-warming research, (100% pork)
  • $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects, (100% pork)
  • $650 million on top of the billions already doled out to pay for digital TV conversion coupons, (perish the thought that the public can't watch Wheel of Fortune)
  • $54 billion will go to federal programs that the Office of Management and Budget or the Government Accountability Office have already criticized as "ineffective" or unable to pass basic financial audits, (like congress?)
  • $2 billion for FutureGen, a proposed low-emissions coal-fired power plant in Mattoon, Ill. Sen. Tom Coburn (D., Okla.) has complained that the FutureGen funding amounts to a large earmark, (pork)
States emerge as one of the biggest losers, after changes agreed to as part of the Nelson-Collins compromise. The new version of the Senate bill would drop proposed funding for a state fiscal stabilization fund from $79 billion to $39 billion. Many states, such as California, are struggling to balance their budgets.

Without a major infusion of funds, state governments worry that they may have to lower the level of services they provide -- which could affect staffing at schools, prisons and other essential services -- or even raise payroll taxes.

"If states don't get some sort of reprieve, or some sort of assistance, then they don't have any options and they have to increase payroll taxes, and it's not a choice that states like to make," said Michelle Blackston, a spokeswoman for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Wall Street Journal estimates only $90 billion out of $825 billion, or about 12 cents of every $1, is for something that can plausibly be considered a growth stimulus.

The WSJ goes on to say, "Most of the rest of this project spending will go to such things as renewable energy funding ($8 billion) or mass transit ($6 billion) that have a low or negative return on investment. Most urban transit systems are so badly managed that their fares cover less than half of their costs. However, the people who operate these systems belong to public-employee unions that are campaign contributors to...guess which party?...Here's another lu-lu: Congress wants to spend $600 million more for the federal government to buy new cars. Uncle Sam already spends $3 billion a year on its fleet of 600,000 vehicles. Congress also wants to spend $7 billion for modernizing federal buildings and facilities. The Smithsonian is targeted to receive $150 million; we love the Smithsonian, too, but this is a job creator?"

The WSJ article ends with a most lucid appraisal of Obama's "stimulus" plan: "This is supposed to be a new era of bipartisanship, but this bill was written based on the wish list of every living -- or dead -- Democratic interest group. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it, 'We won the election. We wrote the bill.' So they did. Republicans should let them take all of the credit."

Even before the last touches were put to the bill, the emerging deal infuriated some Democrats who said that President Obama and Congressional leaders had been, "too quick to give up on Democratic priorities" ($700+ billion in pork apparently isn't enough for some politicians).

“No matter how lavishly overpaid, civil servants everywhere are convinced they are horribly underpaid-but all public employees have larceny in their hearts or they wouldn’t be feeding at the public trough”
-Robert A. Heinlein

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