As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

So Let's Talk About Spending

Today House Republicans are going to engage in an extended whine about the omnibus federal spending bill, which they claim is being pushed through in the dead of night even though the bills have been written and available for over a year. This is a leftover from FY2009 because George Bush constantly threatened to veto the bills. But be sure to hear plenty of Republicans clamor about "runaway spending" today. They're even planning on calling for a spending freeze in the midst of a recession where government spending is practically the only economic activity available. But if they want to yammer on about waste, they might want to look in the mirror.

Republicans are expected to deliver a daylong rant Wednesday against Democratic spending legislation, yet the bill is loaded with thousands of pet projects that Republican lawmakers inserted.

Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, included $142,500 for emergency repairs to the Sam Rayburn Library and Museum in Austin, Texas. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., joined state colleagues to include $1.425 million for Nevada "statewide bus facilities." The top two Republicans on Congress' money committees also inserted local projects.

In all, an estimated $3.8 billion worth of specific projects, called "earmarks," are in the $410 billion spending bill that the House of Representatives is to vote on Wednesday. Easy passage is expected. The Senate is expected to act soon, too, since federal agencies will run out of money a week from Friday unless new funds are enacted.

It should be noted that the earmarks are less than 1% of the overall spending. And increases for appropriations like the Congressional budget, for example, are a cause of the GOP wanting to keep the same number of staffers despite having 20% less members of Congress, turning the whole concept of welfare on its head.

The strongest part of Obama's speech last night, in my view, was when he identified the hundreds of billions if not trillions of dollars in the federal budget that are entirely a consequence of corporate welfare, contractor fraud and a host of other methods that the GOP has been using for decades to funnel cash out of the Treasury to their contributors. They want to have a conversation about "fiscal responsibility" that slashes any worthwhile investment in people, while keeping intact the flows into executive bank statements and massive trust funds. They have played budget games for years, hiding the true costs of their giveaways to the rich, and this is the reckoning. We don't have a spending problem, we have a priority problem. And President Obama is vowing to fix it.

In this budget, we will end education programs that don’t work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don’t need them. We’ll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use. We will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn’t make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

Our job is to hold the President to this rhetorical flourish, as he'll doubtlessly be under a lot of pressure to do the opposite. But what this said to me is that Republicans and fiscal scolds are being called out. If they want to talk about runaway spending, they have to be willing to talk about where the waste actually is. There's been a class warfare in this country for 30 years and the rich have won. This is the blueprint to turning that around.

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