Congress, Earmarks and Holiday Deadlines

I know this is a busy time of the year at work for many people, particularly those with jobs in retail businesses. But c’mon.  Admit it. Most of us don’t want to be working any harder this time of the year than absolutely necessary.

Hey, we had plenty of opportunity to accomplish something — anything? — during the past 12 months.  So now is pretty much the time for a slow jog rather than an all-out sprint to the end of the year.

The lame ducks in Congress and others Inside the Beltway, of course, do just the opposite. And it’s more than a little disturbing to me that those chuckleheads wait until the last minute to pass — or not — legislation that affects all of us today and for years to come. Sheesh.

Late last night Congress passed the extension of the Bush tax cuts for people at all income levels — and added a host of other measures that brings the price tag to more than $800 billion.  I don’t know if this is a good thing for the country in the long run or not — but Prez O and the Dems had no choice. Hard to increase taxes anytime — but certainly not in the wake of the Great Bush Recession and in the midst of Obama’s jobless economic recovery. From a WaPo article:

The $858 billion package now goes to the White House. With his signature, expected as soon as Friday, Obama will prevent taxes from rising on New Year’s Day for virtually every American household. The measure also will guarantee unemployed workers in hard-hit states up to 99 weeks of jobless benefits through the end of next year. And it will create major new incentives for business and consumer spending in 2011, including a two-percentage-point reduction in the Social Security payroll tax that would let workers keep as much as $2,136.

Wow. We’re talking big bucks here.  Why didn’t the Dems do something about this before the mid-term elections? LOL

Then there is the comprehensive bill for federal spending — thousands of pages and adding up to $1.2 trillion — that dropped on lawmakers’ desks several days ago like an overstuffed bag of cow dung. Uh, you mean we’re going to pass this without even reading it? Woot.

Well, no. Again, Congress has had all year to thoughtfully consider government spending, budgets, the growing deficit and so on — but basically sat on their collective thumbs. Harry Reid said yesterday that the Dems would give up trying to pass the spending bill and instead work on an extension of current spending until the new Congress opens for business in January. Here’s from a WaPo article:

Senate Democrats on Thursday abandoned their efforts to approve a comprehensive funding bill for the federal government after Republicans rebelled against its $1.2 trillion cost and the inclusion of nearly 7,000 line-item projects for individual lawmakers.

Oh boy. That means that in January a more conservative Congress — influenced by newly elected Tea Party members — will most likely take an axe to government spending. And some of the earmarks in the current bill — those pet projects of individual legislators and in many cases lobbyists and PAC contributors — will be on the chopping block.

Consider these projects, from an Associated Press article in The Wall Street Journal:

—$1 million for peanut research in Athens and Tifton, Ga.

—$3 million to restore oyster beds in the Chesapeake Bay.

—$360,000 for the Buffalo, N.Y., police department to purchase surveillance cameras.

—$800,000 to develop advanced packaging for combat rations.

—$4.4 million to develop laser technology to counter roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices.

—$12 million for a replacement lock in Sault St. Marie, Mich., to guarantee a shipping passage to Lake Superior and Lake Huron.

—$125,000 to train welders in Portland, Ore.

—$750,000 to study flood risks in Cary, N.C.

—$3.7 million for water and sewer systems at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania.

—$700,000 to expand the emergency department at a hospital in Columbus, Ind.

—$810,000 to begin construction of an air traffic control tower at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

—$500,000 for a proposed ferry between Berkeley and San Francisco, Calif.

For a more complete list — and a really good laugh — take a look at the posts by Citizens Against Government Waste.

But wait a minute. I just noticed something.

In the midst of all this government pork, what happened to the $5 million for the Rob Jewell pajama-clad citizen journalism project?

Probably just overlooked by my representatives in Congress during the last-minute rush to adjourn and quit working for the year.





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