Wednesday — behind closed doors — President Barack Obama signed his 2009 Omnibus spending package, calling it an “imperfect” bill. With 8,570 disclosed earmarks worth $7.7 billion “imperfect” is an understatement.
It’s bad enough that our president was in an irresponsible rush to spend hundreds of billions with his “stimulus” package ($787 billion), and soon $350 million in the second half of the TARP funds, $32 billion — at least — for his new SCHIP program, and now $410 billion in his “imperfect” omnibus bill, but on top of that, he’s been dishonest.
Just two weeks before Obama took office he told reporters that his plans would set a “new higher standard of accountability, transparency and oversight. We are going to ban all earmarks.”
On the campaign trail, ironically almost a year ago today, Obama co-sponsored an amendment that would establish a one-year earmark moratorium for 2009 (the bill failed to pass).
“We can no longer accept a process that doles out earmarks based on a member of Congress’ seniority, rather than the merit of the project," Obama said. "The entire earmark process needs to be re-examined and reformed.”
“I pledge to slash earmarks by more than half when I’m president of the United States of America,” said Obama again on the trail in September.
During a debate with McCain in Mississippi, Obama famously said “Absolutely we need earmark reform, and when I’m president I will go line by line to make sure we are not spending money unwisely.”
Obama’s entire campaign was formed around the mantra of hope and change, “earmark reform” came out of his mouth almost as often as “um.”
And then, in his sort-of State of the Union address drum roll… “I’m proud that we passed a recovery plan free of earmarks” said Obama.
“There was just a roar of laughter — because there were earmarks,” ultra liberal Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D-Mi) told reporters. Actually, there were bunches, gobs of them.
So define earmark? The Washington Post writes that none of the items in the recovery package “are traditional earmarks — funding for a project inserted by a lawmaker bypassing the normal budgeting process — according to the White House and Democratic leaders.”
Though the Post did report that despite pledges, the recovery package did have pork in it. No “earmarks” but “pork.”
Republicans were responsible for stripping the bill of some of its most wasteful spending (the best definition). $1.7 million for a honey bee factory, $20 million for the removal of fish passage barriers, and $300 million for “green” golf carts, just to name a few. (Republican earmarxists were responsible for others that are arguably just as bad.)
"I know that there are a lot of folks out there who’ve been saying, ‘Oh, this is pork, and this is money that’s going to be wasted,’ and et cetera, et cetera. Understand, this bill does not have a single earmark in it, which is unprecedented for a bill of this size. … There aren’t individual pork projects that members of Congress are putting into this bill," said Obama.
Tomato, tomahto, “earmark” or “pork” … Let’s call the whole thing off; it’s unnecessary spending of our tax dollars.
The day after Obama’s address to the nation, the House passed another $410 billion spending bill with 8,570 disclosed earmarks, and Obama signed the bill despite all the earlier promises.
$52.1 million for Vice President Joe Biden’s earmarks as a senator from Deleware, $8.3 million for Rahm Emanuel as a House member from Illinois, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, formerly a Republican congressman from Illinois, $26.5 million — just to name a few.
So what does the Obama administration say now?
"We want to just move on. Let’s get this bill done, get it into law and move forward," Budget Chief Peter Orszag told reporters.
“That’s last year’s business,” said Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
And why, precisely, do we believe that next year would be any different?