Tax Us, Exempt Matt Damon?

Earmarks Rule the Day

???Why don???t we just leave this room today forgetting the word ???earmark??????? That was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in June 2007. But she???s clearly forgotten to forget. The most recent Continuing Resolution and Bailout Bills were loaded with earmarks and special-interest projects. Both Republicans and Democrats need to kick their addiction to earmarks and stop wasting taxpayer dollars.

The Continuing Resolution shows why. It was crafted in secret and dropped in front of every senator — although few, if any, had been able to read it. Yet the Senate passed it. The reason for the secrecy was explained by House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wisc.). He told Bloomberg News, ???You???re damn right it was [secret] because if it???s done in the public it would never get done.??? According to Citizens Against Government Waste, the CR contained a staggering 11,620 earmarks worth $17.2 billion. Simply put, Congress???s priories don???t mesh with the priorities of the American public.

Consider a few examples from the CR:

— Blimps are evidently crucial to the people of Ohio and to the national security of America, because Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) secured a cool $3.2 million for a High Altitude Airship. The Missile Defense Agency, part of the Pentagon???s Defense Budget, didn???t request money for the project, yet Brown saw fit to continue this program (based in Akron). Brown staunchly opposes giving money to missile defense, but million-dollar earmarks for blimps? No problem.

— Squirrel enthusiasts are in luck: Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has pledged millions in federal funds to fund research into the hibernation patterns of squirrels. He added some bipartisanship to the earmark feeding frenzy by requesting $2 million for the University of Alaska to research the hibernation genomics of the Alaskan ground squirrel. This is a real earmark. So even though it sounds like a child???s riddle, our government really will spend your money to answer the critical question: Why do Alaskan ground squirrels hibernate?

— Kids who hope to work at NASA someday may want to pack their bags for Colorado. Sens. Wayne Allard and Ken Salazar have earmarked $800,000 for the Space Education Consortium. This earmark will help the Air Force Space Command to recruit from a pool of space-educated young people in Colorado for future intergalactic travel. Your tax dollars can now help young people become professionals in space travel.

Congress decided to load up the bailout bill too, of course. Amid warnings of a massive economic slow-down being right around the corner, lawmakers couldn???t seem to refrain from freighting the potential deal with earmarks. How much damage could Congress do in just two weeks? Consider that the Senate bill was 451 pages — just a tad longer than the three pages submitted by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

The bailout bill contains, for instance, a provision to exempt from excise taxes the sales of arrow shafts ???consisting of all natural wood??? that ???measures 5/16 of an inch or less in diameter.??? Who knew the ???wooden arrows designed for use by children??? industry was critical to the economy?

And do you think that Britney Spears, Oliver Stone and Matt Damon are suffering under the weight of the Wall Street collapse? Congress does. Senators have inserted a tax exemption to cover ???actors, production personnel, directors and producers??? to jumpstart the economy on the left coast. Perhaps this will inspire Hollywood to make some quality movies that people actually want to watch.

It seems, too, that we???re to bail out the Daytona International Speedway. Now, conservatives tend to like fast cars, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and the Daytona 500. But no credible person believes that a tax benefit for NASCAR is going to do anything to put the economy on the right track, so to speak. Nevertheless, NASCAR is the beneficiary of a new ???cost recovery period??? for taxes as part of the bailout. Other measures include an Indian Employment tax credit, a tax break for Exxon Valdez litigants and a wool research refund.

Sure, Americans have come to expect this sort of irresponsible behavior from their elected officials. But we deserve better. Conservatives want Congress to stop the feeding frenzy and stop the special-interest handouts.


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