Economics

I'll Gladly Pay You This Year for Last Year's Earmarks

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In the Obama's-contradictions department, Time asks whether Obama has a "double-standard on earmarks":

On Tuesday evening, when President Barack Obama declared before a joint session of Congress that "we passed the recovery plan free of earmarks," House Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi popped like jackrabbits out of their seats for a standing ovation. On Wednesday, those same House Democrats led by Pelosi passed a budget with, by some counts, nearly 9,000 earmarks, worth an estimated $7.7 billion. […]

Despite the fact that congressional Democrats crafted much of the bill since Obama was elected, the White House argues that the pork-laden bill—which increases federal spending across a range of cabinet departments by 8%—is part of the prior Administration's legacy. "What may be next week's bill is last year's legislation," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

More here. Nick Gillespie on the "big, wet, steaming, stinking pile of…pork barbecue" here.

Meanwhile, at the Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein reminds us that Obama made repeated campaign promises of a "net spending cut." This promise, as I mentioned in my first post-election column, was the "only…pro-Obama—as opposed to anti-Republican—argument [that] ever really resonated with me." It resonates a bit less right now.

NEXT: Starting the Second Korean War?

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  1. Is it just my imagination or does Robert Gibbs make Scott McLellan look like a fucking supergenius?

  2. Il Duce said that there are no earmarks because it depends on the definition of earmarks. Sorta like saying that “truth” depends on your point of view…

    … or like saying: “Yeah, it has earmarks, and so what? I’m the President, we won, you lost, it’s our turn to screw you now!”

  3. David Bernstein reminds us that Obama made repeated campaign promises of a “net spending cut.”

    Seems like Il Duce has his work cut off for him, considering that he just quadrupled the deficit. Way to go, Duce!

  4. Someone needs to speak truth to power and ask Gibbs, ‘How does it feel to be a lying liar who works for a lying liar?’

    What a bunch of cunts.

  5. It was “last year’s legislation” last year. It didn’t become law.

    That means that this rerun is THIS year’s legislation, in the same way last night’s leftovers become today’s lunch.

  6. You know, those earmarks are actually going to add value to the economy . . . Ooops, sorry, I must be channeling Joe!

  7. “Despite the fact that congressional Democrats crafted much of the bill since Obama was elected, the White House argues that the pork-laden bill — which increases federal spending across a range of cabinet departments by 8% — is part of the prior Administration’s legacy. “What may be next week’s bill is last year’s legislation,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.”

    Uh Huh

    Except that Congress controls the purse strings and last year (and the year before) Congress was controlled by the Democrats.

  8. Seriously, how the fuck can we stop this shit?

  9. To hell with the Prius, you want to see someone get some serious mileage? This tank will last for years.

    On January 8, 2009 while explaining the causes of our economic woes, then President-elect Obama said

    Politicians spent taxpayer money without wisdom or discipline and too often focused on scoring political points instead of problems they were sent here to solve.

  10. In US politics, an earmark is a congressional provision that directs approved funds to be spent on specific projects or that directs specific exemptions from taxes or mandated fees.

    I’m arrogant enough to think I’m pretty goshblarn smart, but I confess to being an utter doofus on this, so help me out, folks. How does the government spend money (let alone massive amounts) WITHOUT earmarking it, other than for the legislature to leave it up to the executive to make the decision(s) it didn’t make? In which case, how is that any better? Is there really any way to avoid “pork” other than to just not spend the damn money in the first damn place?

  11. I can’t believe that this idiot still has a 59% approval rating. I assume that these are the same 59% that believe they had been abducted by aliens.

  12. “What may be next week’s bill is last year’s legislation,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.”

    Yeah, but the reason it’s next week’s bill is that GWB actually threatened to veto it because it contained too much spending. (Proving once again the virtue of divided government.)

    So many libertarians arguing that the Republicans have “zero credibility” on spending. That as may be, Obama and the Democrats have even less. Even during the Republican years, the Democrats were arguing for even more spending, larger Medicare Part D, etc.

    There was at least a theoretical argument that Democrats had to argue for larger spending than Republicans, so that a Democratic Congress and President would actually be able to cut spending with the Republicans pushing on their right in ways that the Republicans couldn’t with the Democrats sniping from the left. That argument seems pretty discredited now.

    The only place where Obama’s been “moderate” so far is in maintaining the vast majority of Bush’s war on terror policies.

  13. The tactic seems to be a rather simple one:

    Put all the earmarks in one bucket, and declare that bucket to be free of earmarks.

    By that logic, we’ll soon be calling the Atlantic ocean the “Atlantic desert.”

  14. “Yeah, it has earmarks, and so what? I’m the President, we won, you lost, it’s our turn to screw you now!”

    Change!!!! Well, it’s about all the change Iexpected.

    You know, those earmarks are actually going to add value to the economy . . . Ooops, sorry, I must be channeling Joe!

    Oh, you mean the economy will grow so there’ll be enough money to pay you kids all the SS and medicaid y’all have been promised.

    Yep, elect a Repuublican and you get a guy who thinks he talks to God. Elect a Democrat and you get a guy who thinks he is God.

    And they call libertarians crazy.

  15. How does the government spend money (let alone massive amounts) WITHOUT earmarking it, other than for the legislature to leave it up to the executive to make the decision(s) it didn’t make? In which case, how is that any better?

    The difference is that the executive has a lot of stuff it has to spend on, which cuts back on the porkish decisions it can make. The lump sum allocated to (for example) the Department of Justice has to cover the salary of all employees, office overhead, the costs of court filings, etc. The executive proposes this in a pretty good level of detail, but Congress just approves a lump sum. And Congress, of course, usually gives a lower sum than what the executive asks for, meaning that the amount of “executive earmarks” is effectively capped by a combination of money that has to be spent and a smaller appropriation than requested. (Obviously, there’s over-requesting and other wiggle room, though.)

    Congress, on the other hand, can appropriate whatever money it wants to be spent however it directs, and those requests, since they’re not tied to money that has to be spent, can get out of control much more easily than the lump sum spent by the executive.

  16. The difference is that the executive has a lot of stuff it has to spend on, which cuts back on the porkish decisions it can make.

    Well yeah, I kinda meant besides money that has to be spend on the necessary functions of government. And if the executive explains what it’s for first, then again, I don’t see especially what the difference is….

    I guess I mainly see the whole debate as a red herring because I don’t see how you’re eliminating wasteful and stupid spending by eliminating earmarks. I guess that’s what I’m asking to have explained? (thanks for trying, though!)

  17. I.e., isn’t it just a ruse to claim or imply the spending is necessary or justified just because Congress allocates it in a lump sum as it does for necessary or justified spending?

  18. I guess I mainly see the whole debate as a red herring because I don’t see how you’re eliminating wasteful and stupid spending by eliminating earmarks. I guess that’s what I’m asking to have explained?

    It’s essentially an argument that you believe that the competitive bid process and other formulae (such as that used by the FRA, DOT, etc.) leads to more efficient spending than the “who can bribe the most must be getting the most benefit from the project, so do that one” method.

    Of course, if you have no faith whatsoever in the processes used by the federal bureaucracy, then sure, not a dime’s worth of difference between them.

    The secondary argument is that earmarks are used to grease the skids for other bad bills; i.e., logrolling. Politicians who would object to bill A out of principle will vote for it if it’s the only way to get earmark X approved. Logrolling always looks better when it’s what’s necessary to get your priorities approved than when it’s used to get something you hate approved.

  19. BTW, nice job by Sen. Ensign (R-NV) of attaching the “…but you have to repeal your gun control laws” to the DC pseudo-statehood bill. It’ll get stripped in conference, though.

  20. Am I the only one here that was made very very hungry by the idea of a pile of pork barbecue?

  21. The stimulus package IS an earmark, for fuck’s sake.

  22. “Well when I was shoveling the dirt in on top of them some of them said “wait! wait!we’s still alive!” but you know how them……

  23. So it was posts like this that drove joe insane and pushed him away? Really? He couldn’t handle criticism of dear leader?

    Wow.

  24. I agree that Republican credibility on spending is approximately 0. I’m just not sure whether Democratic credibility on spending is a negative number or an imaginary number.

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