What, Me Earmark?

Despite President Obama’s campaign pledges to reform the earmark process in Congressional Legislation, even going so far as bragging on Tuesday during his pseudo-State-of-the-Union address that the Stimulus Bill had been passed sans-earmarks, the proof is in the pudding.

In the Omnibus Spending Bill (HR 1105) currently being negotiated in congress, Taxpayers for Common Sense have identified over 9,000 earmarks for a grand total of $7.8 billion dollars. No big deal, right?

Well, maybe it would not be so hypocritical if President Obama was not personally responsible for one of them, setting aside $7.7 million dollars for a Vocational Education program in his home state of Illinois.

This despite his promise in early 2008, while on the campaign trail, to refrain from personally taking part in earmarks. This despite his vowing time and again during the Stimulus Package negotiations that he would not support a stimulus that included earmarks, which he ended up doing. The bravado of his grandstanding on February 24th and claiming that the Stimulus Bill was passed without earmarks notwithstanding.

Not to be outdone, President Obama’s cabinet is responsible for over $500 million in earmarks.

How could this be? Because the Omnibus Spending Bill was negotiated last year, when Obama and many of his cabinet members were in the Senate and House of Representatives. Indeed, many earmarks that were lauded into the bill by congressional members who are no longer even in government remain in the bill.

Including the funding for government departments included in the Stimulus Bill, a total of $680 billion dollars in government spending has been appropriated, an increase of over 80%. Federal spending will jump in fiscal 2009 to $4 trillion, or 27.7 percent of Gross Domestic Product.

The Justice Department is investigating the connection between earmarks and campaign contributions. Pay to play son, pay to play. Rod Blagojevich was right when he said it–he didn’t do anything wrong, it’s horse trading, it’s politics, it’s how it’s done, it’s how it’s always been done.

Change? You want change? Change you can believe in? That is an Audacious Hope.

$17.5 million for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library
$22 million for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
$5.8 million earmark for the Ted Kennedy Institute for the Senate
$2.2 million to study grape genetics in New York
$2 million for the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library
$2 million to promote astronomy in Hawaii.
$1.8 million to conduct research in Iowa on swine odor and manure management.
$1.7 million for a honey bee laboratory in Weslaco, Texas
$1.5 million for work on grapes and grape products, including wine
$1.2 million to control cormorants in Michigan, Mississippi, New York and Vermont
$1 million to control Mormon crickets in Utah
$473,000 National Council of La Raza
$400,000 to combat bullying in Montana
$346,000 for research on apple fire blight in Michigan and New York
$200,000 for Tattoo Removal Violence Prevention Outreach Program in LA
$206,000 for wool research in Montana, Texas and Wyoming
$209,000 for efforts to improve blueberry production in Georgia
$208,000 to control a weed known as cogongrass in Mississippi
$190,000 for the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Wyoming
$173,000 for research on asparagus production in Washington State
$162,000 to control rodents in Hawaii
$100,000 bailout for Lobster Fisherman
$75,000 for “Totally Teen Zone” in Albany, GA

The New York Times,House Passes Spending Bill, and Critics Are Quick to Point Out Pork, by Robert Pear
Time Magazine, Does Obama Have a Double Standard on Earmarks?, by Jay Newton-Small and Michael Scherer

(* This article was originally published February 27, 2009 on the Yahoo Contributor Network)

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