Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"Houston, we have a problem"

No shit.

Thank you, Mr. President, for stating they obvious.

Oh, the balls on this guy, the hypocrisy, the apostasy! Apostasy? Yes, apostasy, because pork-barrel spending, President Bush's new "pet project," has been a modus operandi for the Republicans for years now.

Now, more than half way into his second term, George W. Bush has realized that Congress' wasteful spending is harming the economy. It's bad for America. Like terrorism.

Miraculously, he has come to this epiphany on the eve of the Democratic takeover of the Congress. Interesting.

Where the Fu(# has he been? Has the President, the decider, the cowboy, the man who stood up to terrorism, finally flexed some muscles on the domestic front? The placement of Congress' wasteful spending on Bush's agenda in his penultimate year in office says plenty.

But first, some Quick Facts on Pork Trends from Citizens Against Government Waste:

The # of projects increased by 940 percent between 1996 and 2006.
The # of projects decreased 29 percent between 2005 and 2006.
The total number of projects has increased by 6.4 percent since 2003.
The cost of pork in 2006 was 6.2 percent more than in fiscal 2005.
The cost of pork has increased by 29 percent since fiscal 2003.

All under Republican Congressional leadership.

President's Bush's bold new statements do not come by accident. He obviously hopes to deflect some attention from Iraq and his anticipated speech detailing a shift in strategy. A new policy speech on a hot button issue like pork-barrel spending might generate some good will a week before a speech that will likely contain tough words and tough tactics.

Secondly, the President wants to salvage what has otherwise been a Presidency marked by a dismal record on domestic policy. In fact, dismal may be too generous a word. Lackluster, uninspired, squandered might be more appropriate adjectives. What will his legacy be? A war-time President who spent two terms fighting Islamic terrorism and overthrowing a middle eastern dictator. Period.

Thirdly, Bush clearly hopes to stick it to the Democrats like he did NOT stick it to his fellow party members. He is calling them out as they start their term, as if he spoke from position of moral of fiscal authority.

Fourthly, Bush is looking to simultaneously respond to the mid-term election vote and set his party up for 2008...

But I doubt he's fooling anyone. He hasn't fooled the fiscally conservative right. Bruce Bartlett assailed the President from a piece in the National Review Online. The most Bush can claim is a "threat" of a veto in February, 2004 over a bloated Highway bill. He did not follow through on his threat. Indeed, Bartlett points out that vetoing bills by your own party need not be claimed a taboo. He notes that FDR vetoed 635 bills passed by Democrats. Bartlett laments that on the contrary, not only has Bush been silent on vetoes, but he also signed into law a bloated Medicare bill. In 2004, Bush also drew fire for refusing to veto the $375 billion Omnibus appropriations bill. His record speak for itself.

Where has this taken us? Congress inserted 15,877 earmarks into spending bills in 2005 alone, according to the American Progress Action Fund. Furthermore, the $286.4 Billion 2005 highway bill, which passed, contained $24 Billion in earmarks for 6,736 pet projects. Bush proposed a tough line-item veto back in March, 2006 to combat pork-barrel spending. Yet, what has he done since?

A paragraph from the White House website notes: "Every year that the President has been in office, he has reduced the growth of non-security discretionary spending. Additionally, in FY2006, the President succeeded in holding the growth in base discretionary funding to less than the rate of inflation." But that doesn't include entitlement programs, which continue to grow, and from which earmarks attach themselves to.

In his opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, Bush notes "One important message I took away from the election is that people want to end the secretive process by which Washington insiders are able to slip into legislation billions of dollars of pork-barrel projects that have never been reviewed or voted on by Congress." Again, I have to reiterate... Why has it taken six years to realize this? And even if he is serious, the fact that this initiative comes on the heels of a devastating mid-term loss gives it the reek of being disingenuous.

The President praises Senator Byrd and Congressman Obey for their restraint in the final weeks of their session. Praise for Byrd, of all people, titled "The Kind of Pork" by Citizens Against Government Waste. How does he feel about it? "They call me 'the pork king,' they don't know how much I enjoy it." Byrd and Obey are flagrant abusers of their pork-barrel dispensing powers, nearly as bad as Senators Stevens and Inouye, the Spendthrift Duo, who I have documented in previous posts.

Moving down the page on Bush's opinion piece, I can't help but wonder if he proof read what his ghost writer drafted for him. Almost immediately after the President's wasteful spending proclamation, he mentions the need for greater energy security, another initiative the commander in chief had an opportunity to run with after September 11th, but one that he also squandered.

In sum, today's Porklamation Proclamation has changed nothing. The President may work with the Democrats to curb pork-barrel spending, but it would be a stretch to think that he could claim any kind of victory if it is successful. Any progress on spending cuts will be viewed as a Democratic victory. Ironically, as the opposition party, the Republicans in Congress are likely to raise a stink about spending as well, as they find - they hope - the road back to the majority.

Regardless of the outcome, a last ditch effort in the twilight of his second term will not rescue President Bush's abominable domestic record. He might as well focus all his energies on untangling the U.S. from its foreign entanglements... if that, too, isn't an insurmountable task.

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