Economics

Obama Signs Porkalicious Omnibus Spending Bill, Spits in Wind

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President Barack Obama has signed the $410 billion omnibus bill, the last (though not final) big chunk of spending slated for fiscal year 2009 (which ends in September).

As Radley Balko noted earlier, this bill sets a record for earmarks, a feat that apparently got Sen. John McCain, a self-described computer illiterate only months ago, so hopping mad that he learned the Twitter to tweet his displeasure. Up next for McNasty: Mastering his newfangled Rascal personal scooter.

In the Wash Post's account of the legislation, Obama, who pledged to kill earmarks, comes off as a bizarro Harry Truman: The bucks won't stop, here, there, or anywhere.

[Obama] used the occasion to criticize the more than 8,500 projects, costing more than $7.7 billion, that lawmakers inserted into the bill, and he declared that "this piece of legislation must mark an end to the old way of doing business and the beginning of a new era of responsibility and accountability that the American people have every right to expect and demand."…

"Absent a genuine veto threat, he's just spittin' in the wind," said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), an earmark opponent who walked through the House chamber yesterday carrying almost 100 pages of approved spending requests from a lobbying firm that is under federal investigation.

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who said yesterday that Obama is trying "to fine-tune a fundamentally flawed process," supports a constitutional amendment that would give the president a limited line-item veto authority, allowing him to cross out specific items and give Congress the chance to override those actions….

"The problem is not earmarks, the problem is secrecy which led to abuses in the past," said Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

More here.

Inouye has it half-right, but mostly wrong. The problem isn't earmarks per se, which amount to 2 percent of discretionary spending (though they don't help). The problem is spending in general, which mostly happens in the light of day and which has exploded like a state-financed Mr. Creosote.

Planned spending for FY 2009 is already a huge record-breaking event, up some 32 percent from FY2008 spending (which comes at the end of huge growth under Bush to begin with). It will be higher still, as there are still some supplemental war bills and other things in the works.

Obama's first proposed budget for FY2010 is not as pricey as 2009's, but manages to boost spending over 2008's by a whopping 19 percent. Help out here—is that hope or is it change?

And when you think about that, and the way that Obama completely punted on this omnibus bill, Rep. Jeff Flake has got it all wrong. The president isn't spittin' in the wind. He's pissing in it. And it's blowing in the taxpayer's direction.