Government Shutdown

What Mitch McConnell's Dam Deal and Frank Lautenberg's Death Benefit Tell Us About Govt Spending


With the government shutdown over and the debt ceiling increased yet again, business is returning to normal in Washington, D.C. (at least until the stopgap measure needs to be extended yet again).

While the whole deal does nothing to address serious fiscal issues, at least two parts of the much-lauded deal are worth pausing over, though. They define how the federal government treats taxpayer dollars.

First is the matter of a payment of $174,000 to the widow of the deceased Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). This is not special treatment, explains The Federal Times. Since before World War II, Congress has authorized a death benefit equal to a year's pay to the survivors of deceased members.

What is different in this case is that Lautenberg was loaded:

Frank Lautenberg died in June at age 89. After rising from childhood poverty to lead the Automatic Data Processing payroll management company, Lautenberg was numbered among the Senate's wealthiest men, with a net worth of at least $57 million, according to his most recent financial disclosure report.

The payment to Mrs. Lautenberg is thus a microcosm of how today's welfare state works. In the cases of Social Security and Medicare, it takes tax money from the relatively young and the relatively poor and gives it to the relatively old and relatively rich. Except when it gives money to the objectively old and objectively rich. 

Second is the matter of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's dam, which puts a lie to the idea that there were no Republican winners in the deal to end the shutdown. As Yahoo's Eric Pfeiffer writes,

The nation's leading Republican senator came out of the deal far from empty handed. That's because it's been reported that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell secured language in the new government funding bill that includes nearly $3 billion for a dam project in his home state of Kentucky.

According to reports, a provision in the funding bill includes $2.918 billion in funding to the Army Corps of Engineers to install locks as part of the Olmsted Dam and Lock Authority Project on the Ohio River.

This is part of a project that is already behind schedule. It started out with a pricetag of "just" $755 million. Surely it will help McConnell's re-election gambit. To add insult to injury, here's a statement from Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), whose own state will also benefit from the project:

"According to the Army Corps of Engineers, 160 million taxpayer dollars will be wasted because of canceled contracts if this language is not included. Sen. [Diane] Feinstein and I, as chairman and ranking member of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, requested this provision."

Protecting $160 million in canceled contracts by spending only $3 billion? Can the rest of us get in on that action, Lamar!

These two appropriations are worth keeping in mind as the clock starts ticking on the current CR that will keep the government open til mid-January.

NEXT: Obama: Government Shutdown Caused "Completely Unnecessary Damage" to the Economy

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  1. It shows how out of touch with the current political climate McConnell is. He actually thinks that we still live in a political environment where a few billion dollars in hometown pork is going to save him from his angry constituents. Well Mitch, it is not 1983 anymore and Dan Rostinkowski or any of the other pork kings of history are not walking through that door. And that dam isn’t going to do a bit of good come next year.

    1. He’s betting it won’t offset Rand’s endorsement.

          1. Check the date.

            And their were some contingencies on that endorsement. McConnell might have just broken one of them.

            1. And their were some contingencies on that endorsement. McConnell might have just broken one of them.

              I doubt it.

              Rand and McConnell are attached at the hip on a couple of key issues that are important to Paul (hemp legalization, etc), and Paul isn’t going to dump McConnell until those things are seen through. Paul needs McConnell’s pull in the senate as much as McConnell needs Paul in order to claim some kind of TP bona fides.

      1. I’m not sure Rand or Cruz feel themselves bound to any deal to support or not oppose him now. We’ll see.

    2. If the professional politicians think the world works this way and they get away with it time and again then I’m afraid we may be the ones who misjudge the current political climate.

  2. What Mitch McConnell’s Dam Deal and Frank Lautenberg’s Death Benefit Tell Us About Govt Spending

    That people who aspire to power should never, ever be trusted with it?
    Fuck you, pay me

    1. We will see. But I don’t those corrupt federal pork projects carry the weight they used to. People have finally figured out that few people actually benefit from them and the price of getting them is paying for everyone else getting the same.

      Bringing home the pork didn’t save Bob Bennett or Dick Lugar. We certainly have a long ways to go in getting the country to come to its senses about spending. But I think in this small area they have started too. The good old days of bringing home some pork so your constituents won’t notice how much your are fucking them otherwise are gratefully probably over.

      1. Well, neither of those two guys was the highest ranking member of his party’s Senate caucus either.

        Believe me, his entire primary campaign is gonna be “If you vote against me, KY will lose the power we now enjoy”. And the overly-SoConnish people there will buy it unless Rand Paul comes out in support of his opponent. And there’s no way Paul does that if he has any aspirations of getting big Party money behind him for a 2016 White House run.

        1. Eh. Allen Boyd in my district thought he could run on being #2 on the Appropriations Committee even though he voted for Obamacare. He’s not in the House anymore. It isn’t identically analogous, but I don’t think the Party is quite as strong as it used to be financially. We’ll see.

        2. I don’t see why SOCONs would be any more or less likely to find that appealing. That was the campaign both Lugar and Bennet ran, it didn’t work in Indiana or Utah. Indeed, that is the campaign a lot of Democrats in the Northeast run and have run successfully for decades. So I really don’t see what the SOCONs have to do with it other than that we really hate them on this site and thus assume they will always vote the wrong way and for the worst reasons more so than any other sort of person.

        3. Believe me, his entire primary campaign is gonna be “If you vote against me, KY will lose the power we now enjoy”.

          KY voters (well, Louisville specifically) voted out Northup (the Queen of Pork) despite her position on the Budget Committee that allowed her to bring home tons of backon.

          1. And voted in Paul who abhors pork and has made no qualms in making it public knowledge that he thinks it immoral.

  3. $175,000? deal.

  4. It teaches us that there is no situation so bad that an elected representative will not stepo in and expolit it for his or her own gain.

    They are all, or almost all, morally- and ethically-bankrupt pygmies, who regard the electorate as marks.

  5. Jesus Christ. It’s like they’re TRYING to get as many people possible to hate them.

    How does that wrinkly fuck think this is going to make him look good in any way whatsoever?

    I vote for an amendment to the Dam project that mandates McConnell, Boehner and both Lautenbergs are buried beneath it prior to beginning construction.

    1. What is funny is that they think they can get away with it. That this shit sells like it once did. Remember Ben Nelson? He actually thought getting Mutual of Omaha a few hundred million dollar kick back and getting Nebraska some favorable treatment was going to save him and make everything okay with the voters. They haven’t figured out that the marks are getting wise.

      1. You know, for the same price they could’ve given every voter in Nebraska $100, which would probably have worked better.

        1. So, new slogan for the GOP?

          “Not only are we lying scumbag assholes when it comes to restraining spending, but when we surrender with no resistance, we never pass up an opportunity to steal more money from the till.”

          1. Sure. That’s why I quit the party in 2005 and send their SASEs for fundraisers back with “Go Fuck Yourselves” written on the pledge card. I used to detail the reasons, but now I just do it in hope that some one will get pissed off and take my name off all the mailing lists.

    2. Good idea. A few more need to be in the “foundation”, though.

  6. “No, fuck you, cut spending.”

  7. Didn’t Our Glorious Leader say he would veto anything that wasn’t a “clean” bill? Liar, or am I not parsing his words correctly?

    1. He was looking for a “clean” bill in the same sense that you pick up the “clean” end of a turd.

    2. Yes, this is a dirty, dirty bitch of deal.
      Oh so dirty.

  8. The important thing is, no federal employees had to eat tuna and ramen.

  9. Judging from the photo, she earned every penny. The hard way.

    1. Old fossil kind of robbed the cradle a bit, didn’t he? With his kind of money you’d think he could have afforded someone hotter if he was going to just buy a wife.

  10. And this bill is being portrayed as a victory of the *responsible adults* over the nihilistic wife-beating terroristic Tea Party extremists.

  11. to paraphrase Homer Simpson: Im against their widow-pay-out policy, but I’m for their Lautenberg-dying policy.


  12. “What is different in this case is that Lautenberg was loaded”

    This could have been better expressed, Nick. This is NOT what is different. MOST Congressmen, esp. Senators, are “loaded”. It is the rare Senator that is not a multimillionaire.

    1. If they aren’t when first elected, they certainly are by the time they leave.

  13. So after all the demands from President Obama and Harry Reid for a “clean CR” this is what they came up with and President Obama signed? Not too “clean”, I’d say.

  14. Gee, I’m shocked. You mean the Republicans traded their values, morals, ethics to line their pockets? That might be true if they had any….and they all have plenty of pockets.

  15. In the cases of Social Security and Medicare, it takes tax money from the relatively young and the relatively poor and gives it to the relatively old and relatively rich.

    When I point this out to liberals, they accuse me of wanting to see old people living off cat food and sleeping in the streets. I guess they have no similar concern for the savings accounts of young families.

    1. Most liberals don’t believe in saving for a future, or to help set up your kids for a better life because they just know your money can be used for better purposes. “You don’t need to save that $6000 a year, it’s better spent on paying for Obamacare.”

      1. IN a field one summer’s day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. 1
        “Why not come and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?” 2
        “I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant, “and recommend you to do the same.” 3
        “Why bother about winter?” said the Grasshopper; “we have got plenty of food at present.” But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil. When the winter came the Grasshopper had no food, and found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. Then the Grasshopper knew:


        Or have the government save you, ’cause, um, it’s the government and stuff.

        Pretty sad when a fable won’t even fit into the preferred “medium” of twitter…

  16. Uh, heh heh, uh, is this a…god…damn?

    1. Don’t make a dam bit of difference. It’s just the same dam thing over and over.

  17. Contrast Congressional Death Gratuity to that of Military Servicemembers. Hint, military survivors get 100K. The same legislative bodies pass these measures…

  18. Hey talking heads, how’s your face? Anyway, the payment to Loserberg is not the only shocking thing. I have heard about so many things that the government spends on that were “shut down” that I realize we are pie holed unless we get a complete different set of china for the table.

  19. No term limits, same set of china..

  20. So I just heard on the way in to work on Fox News that the new Debt Ceiling compromise does not have an amount capped but does have a date that it needs to be re-negotiated. Why would the Dems need to come back to the table if they’ve been handed a blank check? Can anyone verify and substantiate this? If true, the GOP just gave away any hand they may have held to try to reduce spending.

  21. This is politics as usual and it shows why the government is broken and can’t be fixed.

  22. Start working at home with Google! Its by-far the best job Ive had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. Useful Reference

  23. The media have misreported the story about the Olmstead Dam project. Happily, our local Louisville newspaper, The Courier-Journal (not a fan of McConnell), reported the full story and got the facts straight:

    –The bill does NOT appropriate money for the project.
    –The bill does set a “new $2.9 billion spending limit for the project, up from the previous cap of $1.7 billion.”
    –Congress will still have to take additional votes to appropriate the money as the project proceeds.
    –The Army Corps of Engineers project was first authorized 25 years ago (1988) at an estimated cost of $775 million. Much of the cost increase has been due to inflation over those years, but it has also been troubled by an innovative, but apparently flawed, method used to construct the dam.
    –Until it is complete, “the entire commercial navigation system of the Ohio River faces a choke point near Olmsted (illinois), where two locks and dams with nearly century-old technology are cobbled together and at risk of failure.”…..neers-says…

  24. my neighbor’s aunt makes $86/hour on the computer. She has been unemployed for 5 months but last month her payment was $21941 just working on the computer for a few hours. go to the website

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