Wednesday, October 08, 2008

What Are Earmarks?

At the second presidential debate the other night, John McCain criticized "earmarks". That's the cause of our financial meltdown. Earmarks.
But a congressperson, when they go to Washington DC, one of the things they do to prove to the voters back home that the congressperson is truly working for them is to try to bring some of the money that constituents paid in taxes back to their state/district, for the betterment of the community. Like the $3 million for a overhead projector for a planetarium that so incensed John McCain. And I can understand that, a lot of the Republican base, while enjoying cell phones, computers, mp3 players and DVRs, tend not to trust science, mainly because they don't understand it.
"How do it work?"
"I dunno"
Religion is much easier for them to understand: God throws lightning bolts, Jesus makes little babies and there's no other explanation needed.
The war in Iraq, for FY2008, is budgeted at about $182 billion dollars a year, or, roughly $10.5 billion a month. So a one time "earmark" is worse than a monthly "earmark" that is $10.2 billion more in John McCain's world. And even though McCain claims the ethnic cleansing, er, I mean, the "Surge" was successful, here it is a full year to a year and a half since it started and we're still over there spending $10.5 billion a month, so it really couldn't have been that successful.
It's no wonder Sen McCain looks angry, the Straight Talk Express has been replaced by the Hate Talk Express, his poll numbers are slipping the closer we get to the election, and every claim he makes has come back to bite him on the ass. But November 5, we'll find out what earmarks really are, the indentations on the walls of a McCain McMansion from banging his head against it for blowing this election.


Snave said...

As for McCain's planetarium fury, I think the guy is in outer space. Didn't he just vote in favor of the bailout package, which contained earmarks? Sheesh.

You are right, Lew... People elect people to Congress due in part to what they say they can do to help the lives of their constituents. I know I wouldn't vote for some guy running for a House seat in my part of Oregon if all he said he wanted to do in D.C. was march along with his party... because I do believe that to think globally, we need to act more locally.

As much as I don't care for my red-state-minded district's House member Greg Walden's right wing politics, much of what he does involves issues that matter to the people of this area... logging and land use in particular. Walden does some of what he can in D.C. based on his somewhat Bushian ideology, but also on what his constituents demand, and more importantly, need. So if the "timber dollars" program he has pushed to keep money flowing to the coffers of counties which have historically had timber-based economies is counted as an "earmark", that's fine with me. I don't like large-scale logging very much, but if the earmark keeps our rural communities and counties solvent, I am all for this earmark. I like having police protection and effective local fire departments.

So while I might be loathe to vote for the Republican Greg Walden, I cannot say he has been all bad for the area where I live, and I'm glad for the timber dollars earmark.

As for the GOP not trusting science, I have also had some first-hand experience with that. I hvae some relatives who decry how science tries to take the place of Christ in people's lives, and they continually pit Science versus The Lord. Arrrrgh. They look at public schools the same way... too much of "the devil's influence" in the schools, so they homeschool their kids. Whatever works for them is fine, because they seem to be happy and all... but they vote. And in this case, they might not have bothered to get excited about voting had McCain not picked Palin.

Back to earmarks, if we look at the total amount the Reps and Senators ask for as a percentage of the total asked for each time, it isn't really all that much. Sure, every dollar matters, and seemingly especially nowadays... but they aren't all bad... and if it's the only way to get some cities, towns and areas the things they need, the only thing that maybe needs changing is a bit more oversight as to the kinds of things which are requested.


A high-tech projector for one of the highest-profile planetariums in the world? A planetarium which generates all kinds of money for its city? A place which might boost the local economy if it increases its technology and subsequently draws in more tourists and visitors? Why not? The people of Chicago might look at the planetarium request the same way I look at Walden's "timber dollars" package. Money for the planetarium might seem like a frivolous request to many Americans, particularly when couched in the kind of terms McCain uses... but to the constituents of the people requesting the money, it's probably a very real matter.

Times are going to be tight, and people may just have to do without a lot of earmark requests for a while, but maybe in a few years if we have someone with a brain and with some guts running the ship, we can right the course.

I don't want our ship of state being captained by an angry little old Captain Queeg of a man. Our country deserves so much better...

Snave said...

Sorry to blabber but I should have mentioned... you are right on about the amount of dollars being wasted on Iraq. If Bush hadn't been allowed to do what he did, just think of how much better it would probably be here in the U.S. today. Instead we have desperate times, brought on by all the mismanagement. I wonder if those in power will resort to desperate measures in order to stay in power...

Tom Harper said...

So "earmarks" are the cause of our economic meltdown? Oh, OK. I thought it was because banks were forced (in the late '70s) to lend money to those shiftless lazy colored people and other minorities.

Believe it or not, that's what a lot of rightwing bloggers and columnists are saying, that the Community Redevelopment Act of 1977 (prohibiting redlining) is the cause of today's Wall Street meltdown.