Lend An Earmark To More Lies

“I don’t want to be a rich man in a poor country.”

– A German millionaire, upon being asked why he didn’t mind paying taxes

Tea party Republicans are calling for government spending cuts and banning earmarks from legislation.  This resulted in a ridiculous charade starring the usual suspects, including Texas’ own Senator John Cornyn.

While newly-elected tea partiers can attribute ignorance to “newbieness,” Cornyn cynically played along when he knows better.  He knows an earmark is simply a Representative or Senator’s designation of funding for a specific project within their jurisdiction. For example, in infrastructure bills they can designate an amount for building a certain project.

Some call it “pork” but others see it as “bringing home the bacon” to the people who elected them. Earmarks create jobs and economic prosperity in the home district in addition to addressing the targeted purpose.

Earmarks are not a significant portion of spending, amounting to less than 2-3%.  Furthermore, axing an earmark doesn’t necessarily mean the spending doesn’t happen. If you simply ban earmarks, who decides where the money gets spent? The Executive Branch, AKA the President. So, those who would lop off earmarks simply give up their legislative power.  Given Republican expressed irrational hatred of this administration, does doing that make sense?

The problems with earmarks are that it’s corruption for a legislator to secretly designate funds benefiting contributors or cronies and it is wasteful if they designate funds for useless projects. Sunshine disclosure of who requested each earmark is the simple cure.  Openness has already been implemented and the number of earmarks reduced significantly.  So this call to “ban ‘em” is a game of smoke and mirrors to make you think they’re really cutting spending when they are not.

This brings us to the ridiculous charade of Republican obstruction to the federal $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund FY 2011.  In December, Senate Republicans used their favorite blunt instrument to block passage of the bill in the Senate. Why? They said, “Too many earmarks.”  Who says? John Cornyn.

He sent a fundraising letter blasting Democrats for 6,600 earmarks in the bill totaling $8 billion (less than 1% of the total).  Where did those earmarks come from? A bunch came from Republicans, including $16 million from Cornyn himself!  And he’s been a top earmarker, inserting dozens totaling $228 million last year.

Surprise, surprise! A Fox News interviewer, Bill Hemmer, actually called Cornyn on his hypocrisy.  Whereupon Cornyn said he was not going to defend his earmarks – “I support those projects but I don’t support the bill.”  All this occurred after the bill had gone through many hearings and had been pared down to a total Republicans said they’d support.  Then, of course, they didn’t.

Without giving specifics, the obstructers claimed the bill didn’t fulfill the demands of the 2010 voters to cut spending.  That’s claiming a mandate they do not have. Even all Republican voters, who were only slightly over half the voters, didn’t demand a meat cleaver be taken to their government. The majority of voters, indeed most nonvoters as well, are demanding jobs and a recovery from the recession.  And simply put, we cannot do that by cutting government spending now.

So what’s going on here is entirely something else. Republicans are openly yearning for a government shutdown like they forced in 1995-96.  After trying to block everything the President and Democrats have done FOR YOU in the last two years, they are still trying to damage this President. They apparently think that, if they shut down government and keep it from doing the people’s business, you’re going to blame President Obama, not them, and vote him out of office in 2012.  Say what? The shutdowns of the 1990s were a political disaster for Republicans.

They’re saying they’ll refuse to extend the federal debt ceiling, which would have only one very, very bad result.  If the government fails to acknowledge its debts and its intent to repay them, it damages the “full faith and credit” of the United States of America with worldwide repercussions. We have never failed to extend the debt ceiling when needed and it surely is needed now to recover from a major recession!

As new Speaker of the House John Boehner was sworn in, Republicans continued the duplicity.  He said they would operate transparently and allow debate and amendments on legislation; then they immediately proposed repeal of health care reform without ANY hearings, debate or amendments.  They call health care reform “job-killing” when actually the opposite is true.  REPEAL of health care reform will kill jobs and increase health care costs, add $230 billion to the deficit, and most important, harm, even kill, human beings who are already benefiting from the reforms.

The bipartisan neutral Congressional Budget Office evaluates legislation for fiscal impact. House Republicans don’t like their findings, for example, that repeal of health care reform adds to the deficit.  So, they now are going to bypass CBO and allow the Republican head of the Budget Committee to distort and politicize “scoring the bills.”

The House also had a rule called “Pay-Go” which requires that any bill that adds to the deficit must have some mechanism of paying for itself by savings or revenue.  Republicans have now rejected that when it’s inconvenient for them, e.g., to give more tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires or to deregulate their corporate sponsors.

This is part of the mishmash of conservative propaganda that government spending is wasteful and doesn’t create jobs, cut it, taxes are too high, cut ’em, axe the government no matter what happens to the people it serves.  All they really intend, though, is to cut taxes; they don’t really intend to cut spending at all.  Since Ronald Reagan, EVERY Republican administration has cut taxes and still overspent, driving up the deficit and total debt.  They blamed it on the Democrats, yet Democrats balanced the budget, paid down the debt and told the truth to the American people.

These irresponsible Republicans must want to be “rich men in a poor country.”  Unless we stand up to them, they may get their wish.

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