One silver lining in the despicable, 2000 page omnibus spending bill unveiled by Senate Democrats is that Republicans also have their grubby fingerprints all over it, so even though the bill lumps together a huge and expensive mess of pet Democratic projects, the richly deserved attacks on the monstrosity cannot be easily derided as “partisan.” Another is that it should put to bed forever the revolting slander that the Tea Party movement was motivated by racism when it proclaimed that it wanted its country back. If there was ever a democratic institution that demonstrated utter contempt for the public, its legitimate and fervently expressed concerns, and the obligation of responsible government, the 2010 Lame Duck Congress is it.
The Senate that did not consider one single Appropriations bill all year chose to create one catch-all garbage bag of a spending bill as the clock is running out—the deadline for passing a 2011 budget is Saturday—making it impossibly long and complex in an attempt to guarantee that it would be passed without knowledge or consideration. This cannot be justified as politics or strategy, though it was clearly both, engineered by the shameless Harry Reid. It is blatantly irresponsible and disrespectful of the legislative process.
Sen. John McCain is threatening to have the bill read on the Senate floor, and Democrats are objecting. That’s right: just reading a trillion-dollar bill and deciding exactly how Congress is proposing to spend the money it doesn’t have —following an election in which the single most important issue to voters was getting Federal spending under control and reducing the deficit, is considered a threat. This tells us all we need to know. We already knew our elected representatives were untrustworthy. Now we know they don’t care what we think, and are incapable of honor, openness, or responsible conduct.
The bill maintains spending for federal agencies at 2010 levels, though 2010 had a $1.3 trillion deficit, the result of non defense discretionary spending rising 24% in the first two years of the Obama Administration. This Congress’s answer to the public’s directive to scale back, pay for new programs, be responsible, get off the path to the fate of Greece and Ireland is…”Stick it!” Though the incoming Republicans promised to return to 2008 spending levels, the omnibus bill is calculated, by Democrats and some deceitful Republicans, to make fulfilling that promise difficult, if not impossible.
The press, already overwhelmed by the task of trying to follow the machinations surrounding passage of the compromise tax bill—yet another crisis caused by this Congress’s refusal to do its job in a timely, open, responsible fashion—now is charged with trying to let the public know what their gangster Senators and Representatives are passing in its name, with its money, at the risk of its future. New horrors are being uncovered every hour: for example, there is a sinister a mandate that directs the U.S. interior secretary to “examine and make recommendations to Congress no later than September 30, 2011, on developing a mechanism for the reorganization of a Native Hawaiian governing entity and recognition by the United States of the Native Hawaiian governing entity as an Indian tribe within the meaning of Articles I and II of the Constitution.” This pushes forward unquestionably racist legislation that would endorse a race-based government in Hawaii.
Hey, it’s only offensive if you know it’s there!
Then there are the earmarks, a relatively small part of the total package, but a major part of the insult. The public has rejected earmarks, those deficit-swelling, unvetted goodies used by Senators and House members to trade for contributions; President Obama supposedly opposes them (we’ll see if he has the integrity to veto a bill swimming with them or to tell his own party’s leaders get rid of them), and the Republican Caucus has vowed to give them up. Nevertheless, this bill has over 6,600, from the pork barrels of dead men (The late Congressman John Murtha and Ted Kennedy both have earmarks associated with them in the bill) as well as millions of dollars worth of local projects attached to the names of Republican Senators who are now condemning the bill…for its earmarks. Several groups have collected them, or flagged the most egregious: Cool season legume research for $350, 000? Making Alcatraz a top flight tourist attraction for 5 million dollars? I think my personal favorite is Harry Reid’s $1 million dollar effort to improve “arthropod damage control.” [If you can stand it, here’s a listing of all the earmarks.]
Typically, some defenders of the indefensible are making the intellectually insulting argument that the hub-bub over the earmarks is silly, since 8 billion dollars is a tiny percentage of the whole package and the deficit is so large that cutting them out will have no measurable effect—other than saving a piddling 8 billion dollars, of course. This argument is used to justify unfunded spending, like the extension of unemployment benefits, unnecessary and wasteful programs, like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and now earmarks. It is the mantra of your ne’re do well brother-in-law who hits you up for the rent when he’s broke at the end of the month but who likes to pick up the tab for beer when he’s out with his buddies. The late, great Senator Everett Dirkson forever exposed this fallacy when he said, “A billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”
But Everett Dirkson was a statesman, back when our leaders took their duties seriously, and respected the system that put them in power. The omnibus spending bill shows that our current leaders respect neither us, the country, their own institution, process, elections, economic realities, or basic ethical principles of fairness, openness, honesty, trustworthiness, diligence or responsibility.
It is frightening. And I have absolutely no idea what we can do about it.
UPDATE: Harry Reid pulled the bill. The fact that such an offensive scheme was even tried is still worthy of concern, but system worked. Barely.