Government Spending

Watching Sausage Being Made

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In an article headed by those most accursed words in journalism–"Second in a Series"–today's New York Times chronicles a new congressman's haphazard decision-making process as she selects earmarks for her district. And dear god, it's awful.

Just the first paragraph makes me want to weep:

Kirsten Gillibrand arrived in Congress two months ago, ready to tackle national problems like health care, immigration and the war in Iraq. But few issues are as challenging as the one she has been confronting for the past few weeks: picking pet projects for her district.

And then there's this:

It is the bricks and mortar of legislative life, and, as Ms. Gillibrand has come to learn, the requests for federal aid range from the major (like $7 million to build a new police station in Saratoga Springs) to things that are obscure even to her (like $400,000 to renovate the James Vanderpoel House in Kinderhook).

"Who was Mr. Vanderpoel?" Ms. Gillibrand blurted out the other day as she went down the list of requests.

And this:

"I came up with that idea at literally 3 in the morning when I couldn't sleep," she said to her staff at a recent meeting, after proposing a novel way to get $6.8 million in funding for renovations at the Olympic center in Lake Placid. "It made sense at 3 in the morning."

For more on pork from the Reason files, go here.

NEXT: Springtime for Conyers

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  1. Yep, aren’t we all happy that these brand-new Democratic Congresspersons who came in to clean up earmarks are so busy spending time deciding how to hand out earmarks. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  2. “Same?”

    Really?

    You sure about that?

  3. well, there is that letter after the name.

    though they both have upper body curves in them (R / D) but there’s at least a 50% difference.

  4. You sure about that?

    It’s true that team D is currently playing the role of the Stupid Party, but have no fear, they’ll be back to being the Evil Party soon enough.

  5. joe,

    When the new people move into the offices and start spending ridiculous amounts of ill-gotten money on equally idiotic ends, the use of the term ‘same’ is justified.

    They aren’t identical, but qualitatively there doesn’t seem to be any distinction.

  6. You sure about that?

    I never had any doubt.

    I’d love for the Dems to prove themselves to be more fiscally responsible than the Republicans, but I haven’t seen a scintilla of evidence yet.

  7. joe is right about this, you know. The Democrats and Republicans aren’t the same when it comes to runaway government spending.

    The Republicans at least try to slow it down. The Democrats don’t even pretend they want to.

  8. Captain Holly, I’d say that used to hold true, maybe about ten years ago. But not any more. Now they’re just as money-drunk as the Democrats.

  9. Wait wait, you mean to tell me that this is a systemic problem? So, like, we can’t just swap the turds with the douches and solve it that way?

  10. The Republicans at least try to slow it down. The Democrats don’t even pretend they want to.

    Sorry, the Republicans don’t even try to slow it down. The Republicans don’t even pretend to want to slow it down. The Republicans are now Socially Concervative Democrats.

    “Same?”
    Really?
    You sure about that?

    Yes, really joe… they are exactly the same.

  11. Captain Holly, I’d say that used to hold true, maybe about ten years ago. But not any more. Now they’re just as money-drunk as the Democrats.

    You’re probably right. I should have wrote that as “the Republicans at least pretend to try to slow it down.”

  12. “Each decision involved opportunity and risk. For instance, the congresswoman crossed off a nearly $8 million proposal to construct a museum in Fort Edward that would showcase remnants of an 18th-century British fort and Indian artifacts.

    “Local officials, including an outspoken and politically influential town supervisor, have said the museum would give a boost to the economically beleaguered town, and its rejection was not expected to engender good feelings.”

    Fort Edward, New York, is a shithole, and an eight BILLION dollar assortment of arrowheads is not going to change that. It would make more sense to relocate those people to New Orleans.

    And yes, Joe, the demos have the whip and the reins. All same now.

  13. Looks like you got your answer, joe.

  14. But we knew it was a dumb question from the beginning, didn’t we?

  15. Hugh A,

    “joe,

    When the new people move into the offices and start spending ridiculous amounts of ill-gotten money on equally idiotic ends, the use of the term ‘same’ is justified.

    They aren’t identical, but qualitatively there doesn’t seem to be any distinction.”

    The distinction that matters isn’t qualitative, it’s quantitative. Wake me up when this Congress spends even half as much on pork at the last.

  16. Yes, jf, I’ve got my answer: the people complaining about too much money being spent on pork project don’t really give a damn about how much money is spent on pork projects.

    It’s just a ruse to bash Democrats.

  17. I dunno, joe, at this rate, the Democratically controlled Congress wil rack up about 100 billion in earmarks in their first 12 months back in power. Even, adjusting for inflation, I don’t think the Republicans did as much in 1995.

  18. Voting is the means by which you express your preference for who will be the recipients of increasing portions of your (or your children’s) paychecks.

  19. joe makes a good point – while this Dem Congress is off to a great start on pork spending, they’ve got a ways to go to catch up to the last Repub Congress.

    Anyone know of a reliable scorekeeper for this?

  20. Will Allen,

    The Bridge to Nowhere alone cost $500 million. One item in one bill.

  21. joe, 500 milliom is 1/200th of 100 billion. How much did the Republicans earmark in 1995, adjusted for inflation?

  22. Anyone know of a reliable scorekeeper for this?

    Try the Citizens Against Government Waste Pig Book.

    As for Republicans circa 1995, who gives a shit about 12 years ago when they swept into power? Look at what the Repubs have done in the ensuing 12 years since attaining said power. I am not saying that Dems are any better, but comparing the 2007 budget to the 1995 budget is apples and oranges. One thing that the Republicans have not done since taking control is “slow down spending”.

  23. kwix, I never said they did. I do think it is generally true, however, that political parties become more corrupt the longer they hold power, so if a party gets off to a bad start in year one, you likely ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

  24. Will,

    Why are you obsessed with 1995? Democrat-endorsing Reasonoids didn’t endorse 2006 Democrats over 1995 Republicans, because that wasn’t the choice. They endorsed 2006 Democrats over 2006 Republicans.

  25. joe, please explain how, in your somewhat strange world, mentioning a year twice in a thread qualifies as an “obsession”. How very odd. I mention it merely because where a party starts when it takes power, in terms of abusive or corrupt spending practices is likely going to get much worse the longer the party holds, or the more it consolidates, power. That is one of the major functions of a political party; to divvy up spoils. Thus, it may be useful to compare where the Republicans were in 1995, as opposed to the Democrats are in 2007, as a means of getting some idea as to where we are headed fiscally.

    For the record, I had no problem with the Republicans being tossed out.

  26. MMM sausage. Can we watch the Bacon be made? I imagine that it’s created in some sort of Willy Wonka wonderland with umpalumpas rowing colorful boats down rivers of bacon grease.

    Mmmmm.

  27. Note, I mean the food bacon, not Kevin Bacon. I don’t think I want to watch him being made.

  28. [takes down projector with 9mm film of Mr. and Mrs. Bacon]

    d’oh!

  29. Will Allen,

    Allow me to explain joe’s world:

    Democrats are always (as in, 100%) right, good, and moral. Likewise, Republicans are always (as in, 100%) wrong, bad, and immoral. All facts and arguments will be chosen or omitted for presentation based on these a priori assumptions.

    This is the very essence of “partisanship”: your team is right, period! You are loyal to the team, period! Everything for the team, period!

    Therefore, if something really an “obsession” has nothing to do with the facts, as such a thing will only be said if it helps the Democrats and hurts the Republicans. Stop looking at the facts when you’re considering what joe wrote, because joe doesn’t really care about them.

    (Next up: a petty insult from joe! I bet he’ll call me gay. I *love* it when a “progressive” does that, because I am gay, and then I get to harrangue them about being a gay-basher. It’s hilarious!)

  30. Thanks for sharing your feelings, Loundry. It’s always so useful to discussion when people call me names.

    For the record, I didn’t insult you for being gay; I insulted you for behaving like bully to compensate for your insecurities. Correctly guessing the motivation for your chest-puffing is not gay-bashing.

  31. Will,

    Word choice? You want to discuss word choice? Really?

    You may be right about the long-term prospects for the Democrats’ stance towards earmarks, but the libertarians on this board who supported the Dems in 2006 in hopes of fiscal sanity did not do so because of their beliefs about the Democrats’ long-term prospects.

  32. Thanks, Kwix.

    According to the Pig Book, for fiscal 2005, the pork score is as follows:

    For fiscal 2005, appropriators stuffed 13,997 projects into the 13 appropriations bills, an increase of 31 percent over last year’s total of 10,656. In the last two years, the total number of projects has increased by 49.5 percent. The cost of these projects in fiscal 2005 was $27.3 billion, or 19 percent more than last year’s total of $22.9 billion.

    I chose 2005 because it is the most recent odd-numbered year, odd-numbered years being perhaps more comparable with each other due to the 2-year Congressional election cycle.

    There’s $27.3 billion for 2005 for the Repubs. I would say the Dems are easily on pace to beat that.

    Say, weren’t the Dems going to reform the process to get rid of earmarks? What happened with that?

    And now’s that liberaltarian alliance coming?

  33. Yes, joe, because a lot of people here are fiscally conservative, so of course pork is bad. And if you’re using the vast amounts of pork spending by the Republicans as your measuring stick, we’re totally screwed.

    But doesn’t how completely vacuous this lady sound give you just a little bit of fear???

  34. Uh, Joe, you asked me about an alleged “obsession”. Why would you be incredulous about my discussing the choice of a word you decided to ask me about? Again, this is very odd behavior on your part.

  35. I dunno, joe, at this rate, the Democratically controlled Congress wil rack up about 100 billion in earmarks in their first 12 months back in power.

    Umm, where are you getting this number from? Not trying to be an ass, just looking for sources.

    Say, weren’t the Dems going to reform the process to get rid of earmarks? What happened with that?

    Well, according to the ever so liberal Washington Times, it is going according to plan.

    Also, not to put too fine a point on it, but the 2007 budget was mostly, but not entirely, decided by the Republican controlled congress. In other words, no matter how bad the 2007 budget is, you can blame both sides for it!!

  36. Hey, Kwix, I just saw from multiple sources that the defense appropriations bill now in the House has had about 21 billion in earmarks attached to it. 21 billion by the middle of March works out to about 100 billion in a year. Now, it may not pass in it’s current from, but that won’t be for lack of trying by some Democrats, and while they certainly could slow their pace of earmarking for the balance of the year, that is why I used the phrase, “at this rate”.

  37. P Brooks

    Damn! I was going to vacation in Fort Edwards. Have my picture taken next to the “The Fort was Here” boulder and the three historical marker signs. Then I was going to spend the weekend in Schuylerville and visit Glenn Falls.

  38. Yes, jf, I’ve got my answer: the people complaining about too much money being spent on pork project don’t really give a damn about how much money is spent on pork projects.

    It’s just a ruse to bash Democrats.

    I’m going to offer you a clue, joe. I’ll take the first chance to bash Democrats (as you have so astutely detected), as well as the first chance to bash Republicans (as you seem to have missed) when it comes to pork spending.

    Feel free to continue offering arguments showing how the Democrats’ pork is nowhere near as egregious as the Republicans’ pork. Feel free to also ignore how the Democrats campaigned on a platform of “draining the swamps”.

    Let me guess. When Democrats earmark, it’s not pork, right?

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