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March 22, 2007

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No disagreement Your Honour!

somehow, it makes me smile, to know that i'm able to say "i told you so! these people aren't that good!" to all those people who kept insisting the Dems would never do anything like that.

oh well

Yep.

Well , I have to say that when I first heard about this I was disturbed, and more so when I read that committee memberships were being held over members heads.

This smacks of some of the same arm-twisting that we (meaning those of my political leaning) used to criticize the Republicans for. My own feeling, as much as I support the primary legislation, is that it should pass or not based upon its own merits.

I realize there is some naivity in this thinking, and the buying of votes (one way or the other) has always been somewhat SOP, but that doesn't mean I have to like it or approve of it.

But...but...b-b-b-but...

...oh, right. Never mind. Let's just hope we can put enough pressure on them, if not to take these expenditures out, then at least to force them into a separate bill.

Are they larding this up so they can get it through the Senate?

I'm not going to defend most of those, but I don't see how $500m to fight wildfires can be described as pork.

Can't say I'm surprised either. Pork's always going to be there until we get serious legislative reform. At a minimum we need to support the Read the Bills Act.

Not much to disagree with here, though I wonder whether the wildfire fighting appropriation really counts as pork.

Instead of rewarding growers, the government would do better to direct money at safety measures to prevent future contamination.

Agree here also, but I can imagine the howls of pain from some circles if (shudder) safety regulations were passed and money allocated to enforce them.

I think it would be nice if the country had some sort of consistent policy on natural disasters. It seems that with every drought, hurricane, earthquake, etc. we end up cobbling together some sort of poorly thought out plan to compensate victims in different ways for different things and under different schemes.

Some clear system that combines emergency grants and government-run insurance (probably subsidized to a degree), and makes clear what the limits of assistance are, and what individuals must insure on their own (do livestock producers have no way of insuring against losses from blizzards?) would save a lot of trouble and a lot political hassles and probably a lot of money.

Looks like something a well-run FEMA might try to do.

"I realize there is some naivity in this thinking, and the buying of votes (one way or the other) has always been somewhat SOP, but that doesn't mean I have to like it or approve of it."

So good it deserved to be said again.

Actually, these are *not* earmarks. Earmarks are expenditures targeted for particular project in particular districts. These are industry-wide expenditures. Pork, but not earmarks.

What happened to pay-go?

I'm not sure how livestock assistance counts as pork. I would think that most of the areas where livestock are lost due to blizzards are areas where traditional insurance would fear to tread. However, the nation needs food, and places like eastern montana ain't that good for much else than raising cattle. Seems like a small price, actually, considering the weather lately.

"O Lord, give me chastity, but not today".

I guess I'm with Augustine on this one. Setting aside the Iraq war for a moment, it seems to me that liberals will -never- get 60 votes in the Senate for national health care unless they have the power to spread some money around.

Well, von has done a great job of appealing to all the "reasonable Dems" who feel compelled by considerations of fairness to condemn their own side.

But realistically, even though I'm not one of those people out marching in the streets, the war is a million times bigger of an issue than earmarks. And if Pelosi and the Democratic leadership believe passage of this bill is a key step towards ending the war on the right terms, I have not an iota of concern for the fact that they had to pass out a few earmarks to get it done.

Von says, "Whether you are pro- or con- on the bill itself, this should rankle." I don't simply disagree with that statement, I find it comical. If you believe this bill plays an important role in ending the war, you're supposed to be upset that they're using earmarks (OMG, EARMARKS!) as a sweetener to get it done? Give me a break. Let the people who oppose the bill pretend like earmarks are the true outrage, I really don't care.

Is there anybody on this planet who is truly pure enough to say that they desperately want to end the war, but not so desperately that they're willing to use a few earmarks for spinach growers as a way of getting it done? Before reading this thread, I would have said no way. How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for porkbusting?

I'm not sure how livestock assistance counts as pork.

This is a great sentence, collin.

I would think that most of the areas where livestock are lost due to blizzards are areas where traditional insurance would fear to tread. However, the nation needs food, and places like eastern montana ain't that good for much else than raising cattle. Seems like a small price, actually, considering the weather lately.

I don't know why traditional insurance would avoid this business. Maybe they would fear that at the premiums they would have to charge few people would buy insurance. Of course, if everyone bought it the price of meat would rise. This would be desirable, since it would mean that meat consumers would bear the costs of raising livestock, including the risk of loss. Under the appropriation the taxpayers bear the risk.

There's another problem with providing assistance in agricultural disasters. The loss of a big chunk of a crop, or livestock, drives the price of the rest up, so the financial loss is less than the physical loss. For unaffected producers the disaster is a windfall. Ths is not to say there shouldn't be assistance programs, just that I wonder whether the things we do are sensible.

Steve:

Is there anybody on this planet who is truly pure enough to say that they desperately want to end the war, but not so desperately that they're willing to use a few earmarks for spinach growers as a way of getting it done? Before reading this thread, I would have said no way. How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for porkbusting?

Amen.

"Is there anybody on this planet who is truly pure enough to say that they desperately want to end the war, but not so desperately that they're willing to use a few earmarks for spinach growers as a way of getting it done? Before reading this thread, I would have said no way. How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for porkbusting?"

Or alternatively you could say that nothing is so important that you can't add pork.

Seriously, which representative is so right on the fence that he needs $25 million in spinach subsidies to make up his mind about the future course of the war in Iraq?

Seriously, which representative is so right on the fence that he needs $25 million in spinach subsidies to make up his mind about the future course of the war in Iraq?

They're just looking out for #1, "If I vote for this bill I think it will decrease my chances of re-election, so I need something to counterbalance that before I vote for it."

Well, I'm kinda with you, Seb, in that I think it's kinda nuts that the spinach bailout is really going to make a difference.

But the funny thing about this particular bill is that it's pretty unclear as to what effect it will actually have. I mean, the hardline anti-war reps like Barbara Lee, I really doubt they're saying to themselves "Gee, this will end the war faster, but I still oppose it on principle." I expect they think that the war won't end any sooner regardless of how they vote, and they simply don't want their name on a bill that continues the war. Or maybe they really are that zealous about their principles, I dunno.

So you probably have some people on the fence who, likewise, don't think this bill will actually make a big difference, but they're concerned about how it will be perceived in their district. Thus, they can at least say they got something out of it.

Well, von has done a great job of appealing to all the "reasonable Dems" who feel compelled by considerations of fairness to condemn their own side.

Yes, I find it much more productive to make my appeals to reasonable people (of any political stripe). I've tried making appeals to unreasonable people, and it doesn't work out that well -- as you ably demonstrate.

Von, you may find my view that stopping the war is much more important than the earmark issue to be unreasonable, but I think you have no basis to label me as an unreasonable person. I think that's a bit of a personal attack that doesn't belong here.

Steve's analysis of why the enticements are being offered is correct, and perfectly reasonable. If I thought that the Pelosi-Obey version of the Pentagon supplemental would do anything to end the occupation, I might even be tempted to support them. But I don't, and I've been critical of the domestic spending in the bill long before Von posted here.

Want to know what pours salt in the wound? The lures aren't even going to work. I bet not more than five Republicans end up voting for the supplemental tomorrow.

But while we're huffing in disapproval of the bill being larded with spending unrelated to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, let's spare a bit of outrage for the Pentagon's own pork:

The coming supplemental [Pentagon funding request] is being used by the military services for more than replacing what has been lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is being used to acquire future weapons that normally would be funded through the regular Pentagon budget.

An October directive from Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England opened the floodgates by allowing the services to request emergency funds to replace equipment and upgrade to newer models for the "overall efforts related to the global war on terror," not just operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It's a feeding frenzy," says an army official involved in budget planning. "Using the supplemental budget, we're now buying the military we wish we had."

Again, something I've been writing about for some time.

I would much prefer to have had a principled, clean Democratic proposal on the supplemental: cut out the weapons system crap, replace it with veterans health funding (since that is necessary to the troops and won't be adequately funded if it's left up to Republicans), set readiness standards with teeth and a withdrawal timeline likewise, and live with the result.

Let's actually see where the members of Congress are, instead of papering over deep divisions and making this a question of partisan support for the Speaker. But, hey, I'm clearly living in a dream world.

von, steve has a point. That was stupid snark in the comments.

I'd also point out that it's not an emergency unless it's happening to you. There's really not enough information in the USA Today post to actually understand any of the items or programs being created. It's also hard to really evaluate how many of these things actually make it into most bills, especially when folks are crying out for help (assuming they're in need of help and not just pulling up to the trough for more).

It's also unclear to me why there's surprise on the "unable to get even 50 votes" thing in the Senate. Joe Lieberman doesn't count as a Dem, especially on this issue, and few Republicans have shown any guts parting with the Caucus on this issue. 49 would be the best the Dems could do along partisan/caucus lines.


PS. yes, I could go look up the bill, which I might do later... just can't now and wanted to point out the ambiguity for those that didn't read the bill or the amendments/sections mentioned as well.

Von, you may find my view that stopping the war is much more important than the earmark issue to be unreasonable, but I think you have no basis to label me as an unreasonable person. I think that's a bit of a personal attack that doesn't belong here.

Steve, you can't call me "comical," toss out a softball, practically beg me to swing at it, and then complain that I'm being unduly "personal" when I do. The first three things, OK. The last: c'mon now. Don't be a ruleslawyer. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rules_lawyer.) Roll with it. This is a friendly blog.

Oh god, did von just invoke Rule 0?

Von, as long as you were just looking to be a smartass, I take it in that spirit. But then I'm kinda interested to know what you'd actually say in response to my point. Because if you really think passing this bill is important in terms of ending the war (and hey, even purist neoNaderite David Sirota is on board) then I'm really not sure why you would be bothered by earmarks at all. It's not your typical piece of legislation.

(If I really wanted to play rules lawyer, by the way, I'd point out that I didn't call you comical, I called your argument comical, which I think is fair game! But really, it was more the fact that I was surprised you'd label my argument as something only a nutball would say.)

Got anything to say about the Pentagon pork, Von?

I did intend my prior comment purely as snark; sorry if that didn't come through.

Because if you really think passing this bill is important in terms of ending the war (and hey, even purist neoNaderite David Sirota is on board) then I'm really not sure why you would be bothered by earmarks at all. It's not your typical piece of legislation.

(1) I don't think that any bill should be weighed down with irrelevant pork (FYI, these aren't earmarks, strictly speaking) and (2) if you have to lure house members to your controversial and disputed view with the promise of Spinich subsidies, it makes me wonder if you're in the right at all. That's a policy problem, and a political perception problem too -- and one reason why Congress' approval ratings are plummeting.

Got anything to say about the Pentagon pork, Von?

Tell me what you're calling pork, and I'll tell you my views.

p.s. Had to Google "Rule 0," which turned out to be a little past my time (my playing days ended somewhere around 1990), but, yes, I am invoking it.

Re: pork vs war. We got into this war in the first place because the Congress was more interested in pork and influence then with doing their job. So fighting pork should not be put on some "when I get around to it" list.

You have only to follow the link in my comment to learn what I am describing as pork, and it's quite clear in the excerpt I posted: weapons systems that have nothing to do with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Don't worry, they've got the appearance problem solved: They just ordered the Congressional Research Service to stop identifying earmarks.

Now if they only cared as much about the reality problem.

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