Tuesday, September 16, 2008

on earmarks

Earmarks have become one of the big issues in this current campaign, so let's talk about them. First, what are earmarks? Answer: they are money approved by Congress at the urging of individual Senators and Representatives at a point in the spending process where they are not subject to the usual reviews. They amount to a little over 1 percent of the Federal Budget, but seem to have more press and more consideration than does the lack of oversight of the Iraq peace-keeping spending. (Iraq has not really been a war since the fall of Saddam.) Second, who dislikes earmarks? Generally, no one if they put money into my Congressional District (in this case, Montana). In fact, it may prove detrimental to a Congressperson who does not support such money for his constituents. I recall back in the bad old days when the pundits said a very conservative Montana representative (Orvin Fjare) lost the 1960 election to a Democrat (and we came close to having the heavens fall on us back then) when he did not support money for Yellowtail Dam. So earmarks are bad only when they are in some other jurisdiction. Afterall, Montanans have cheered the Bozeman library money and the funds spent on Taxpayer Acres (otherwise known as Dehler Park).

So that brings me to the issue of the Bridge to Nowhere which is raising a big stink in the campaign because Agnew-Palin is saying that she told Congress no on the bridge. I ask, what difference does that make? She may not have supported the bridge (the evidence says she did up until Congress said no) but as governor of Alaska she took the money and has distributed it to other projects in the state. So is she telling a lie when she says she said no to the Bridge to Nowhere? Maybe not, but she took the money and has spent. So what is the issue here: the bridge or the money? By my reading of the attacks on earmarks it's not necessarily the projects (some of which are rather criminal in nature or at least very unusual) but it is the money. So is it a lie or a rather slippery notion of facts? I would suggest that morally, she lied.


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