Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Big Bucks

That ban on earmarks that the Republicans promised to uphold didn’t last long.

Weeks after swearing off earmarks, many senators stand to gain tens of millions of dollars for pet projects in a massive spending bill that could be their last chance at the money before a more conservative Congress begins next month.

The $1.2 trillion bill, released on Tuesday, includes more than 6,000 earmarks totaling $8 billion, an amount that many lawmakers decried as an irresponsible binge following a midterm election in which many voters demanded that the government cut spending.


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) epitomizes the conflicted nature of the debate. Formerly a member of the committee that doles out earmarks, McConnell reluctantly embraced a moratorium on the practice last month to send a signal that Republicans are serious about curbing spending.

Yet the legislation includes provisions requested this year by McConnell, including $650,000 for a genetic technology center at the University of Kentucky, according to an analysis of the bill by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan watchdog.

Saying he was now “vigorously in opposition” to the legislation, McConnell said Tuesday that rushed consideration of the bill “here on Christmas Eve” compelled him to try to block the bill through a filibuster. “I’m going to vote against things that arguably would benefit my state. I do not think this is the appropriate way to run the Senate,” he said.

But McConnell, like other new earmark opponents, stopped short of asking for his projects to be removed from the bill.

Here’s the lesson: it’s only pork if it’s in the third person, such as “their wasteful spending on pet projects,” but if it’s a sewage treatment plant or International Museum of Roller Skating, it’s essential because it “creates jobs”… or whatever mythology they’ve focus-grouped to see what works with the base. They’re still big on the one that cutting taxes increases revenue; what Steve Benen calls “the tax fairy.”

They all know it’s a crock and so do we, so why don’t they just stop pretending with these silly promises to stop doing it? It only makes them look all the more foolish, which, given that it’s the United States Congress, is pretty hard to do.