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Meet The Enemy vI: Pork Barons
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Sam



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 2:01 pm    Post subject: Meet The Enemy vI: Pork Barons Reply with quote

Quote:
SENATOR Tom Coburn had a simple question: "Why shouldn't the American people know where their money is being spent?" Because some of their representatives don't want them to, was the answer.

The Oklahoma Republican drafted a bill this summer that would create an online database allowing taxpayers to discover what the federal government was spending $2.5 trillion (1.3 trillion) of their taxes on.

S.2590, also known as the federal funding accountability and transparency act, became the subject of Washington intrigue, however, when it emerged that the bill was being blocked secretly by at least one senator. A mystery senator placed a "secret hold" on S.2590: an arcane procedure by which any senator may block any piece of legislation merely by informing the party leader that he or she wants to place a "hold" on the bill. Such a move prevents it reaching the Senate floor for discussion, leaving the legislation in limbo.

The bill might have stayed there but for an unusual coalition of bloggers and online activists who pestered all 100 senators, demanding that they publicly clear their names so they could be crossed off the list of suspects. The game was afoot and before long the bloggers had declarations of innocence from 98 senators. The remaining two were Ted Stevens, a Republican from Alaska and West Virginia's veteran Democratic senator, Robert Byrd.

"They were such obvious suspects that, in a thriller novel, it never would have been them. But life is not a thriller novel, and the obvious suspects are usually guilty," said Professor Glenn Reynolds, who blogs at instapundit.com and is a co-founder of Porkbusters.org, a website dedicated to exposing wasteful government spending and shaming those who champion such profligacy.

Pork-barrel politics are a major issue in the United States, with the country running a huge budget deficit. An infamous example of such spending is the Iowa Indoor Rainforest Project - known as the pork forest by critics.

The Republican senator Chuck Grassley got $50 million for the project, attached, in the form "pork" spending usually takes, to the unrelated 2004 energy and water appropriations bill. The project has little environmental value. Even in the 2005 tsunami relief bill, Congress added $25 million for a fish hatchery in Montana. Many more examples of such "earmark" spending exist.

For the bloggers - conservative and liberal alike - there was rich irony in the fact that a bill designed to offer greater transparency was blocked by secretive means. To them, the saga reinforced their belief that Washington elites are out of touch with the voting public. "It's an insider game in which keeping the voters ignorant is a key strategy, on which both parties agree" says Prof Reynolds.

"This bill is a threat to anyone who wants to play the pork game with impunity," said Mr Coburn's spokesman. "The only reason to oppose this bill is to continue the culture of secrecy in Washington." Senator Stevens's spokesman told reporters that Mr Stevens simply wanted to wait for a proper "cost-benefit analysis" of the bill. "Senator Stevens wants to ensure this bill is not going to create another layer of bureaucracy," he added.

Mr Byrd's office released a statement saying that he "wanted time to read the legislation, understand its implications and see whether the proposal could be improved. Now that there has been time to better understand the legislation, Senator Byrd has released his hold."

Both senators have a well-earned reputation for pork-barrel politics.

"I want to be West Virginia's billion dollar industry," said Mr Byrd in 1990; an ambition he "succeeded handsomely" in fulfilling, according to the Almanac of American Politics.

Indeed, Mr Byrd, who was first elected to the Senate in 1958 and has been a fixture on Capitol Hill since 1952, received the dubious distinction of being crowned "King of Pork" by Citizens Against Government Waste, a watchdog group that tracks federal spending.

One blogger on porkbusters.com described his hold thus: "I once saw a park latrine in West Virginia that I thought was not named after him, but someone told me the sign had fallen down."

Mr Stevens has been no less assiduous in diverting federal funds to his home state. He drew widespread ridicule last year when he attempted to secure more than $233 million for the now infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" to link Gravina Island (population 50) to the Alaskan mainland. He eventually got the money - even if the bridge was never built.

Now that both senators have been shamed into releasing their holds on the legislation, Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, has promised to bring the bill before the Senate for a vote when it returns from recess later this month.


Scotsman

Important finger-waving political lecture: pork is not a little problem! It's not a curiosity, it's not a little thing. It's actually a central and critical danger to the entire way our government works, a paramount concern. It's completely broken the spending appropriation system that this country uses, and it actually legitimately endangers the continued solubility of this country by prioritizing and encouraging wasteful spending as the default strategy for maintaining seats in Congress.

Pork is a huge thing. Congressmen like Ted Stevens are the enemy.
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Desire



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PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 2:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So what are the chances of this ever really becoming something? I have a hard time envisioning it. I'd really love it if someone could tell me I'm too jaded.
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kame



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PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think this is one bill where a public uproar over it being defeated might actually influence the vote. How would it look to your constituents if you said, "you don't need to know where your money is going."
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Celaeno



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PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 8:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pork barrelling entirely aside, the article made me happy. I'm thoroughly impressed that people actually did something about this and it worked. In our typically apathetic age, this is hopeful.
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Kilgore



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PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 1:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That Ted Stevens is a real sonofabitch. A big problems is that the impression I've gotten from the Alaskans I know is that they are proud to have a Senator who will use his seniority to secure funding for projects of dubious utility that benefit their state to the detriment of the rest of the Union. I'm not sure what can be done to fix this, as long as they keep electing him.
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kame



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PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 1:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ted Stevens is also insane.
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Darqcyde



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PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 4:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was hoping this was something involving the raising of swine but I see I'm wrong. I don't know what makes me sicker, the actions of our legislature or the apathetic response this genrates in the media. Every I read about government abuses like this I feel the frigid vines of cynicism choke out my romantic heart a little more.
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Darqcyde



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PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 4:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh yeah, I'd seen this before but it's relavant again

click the pig

remember, that's 1-800 BE-ANGRY no seriously, that's the hotline.
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mouse



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PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 5:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

the fact that a guy like coburn (a stauch right-winger) would come up with this bill tells you something about how serious the problem is. it's so bad, it's even worrying conservatives.

this, and the whole k-street pay-to-play things are just incredibly detrimental to our government and our country as a whole. the things we could do with all this wasted money - it absolutely makes you sick.

i would never have believed i would find myself on the side of an oklahoma republican, but i hope coburn's bill passes. maybe even ted steven's constituents will be embarrassed when the scope, and the harm, of this sort of behavior become known.
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Darqcyde



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PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 5:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mouse wrote:
the fact that a guy like coburn (a stauch right-winger) would come up with this bill tells you something about how serious the problem is. it's so bad, it's even worrying conservatives.

this, and the whole k-street pay-to-play things are just incredibly detrimental to our government and our country as a whole. the things we could do with all this wasted money - it absolutely makes you sick.

i would never have believed i would find myself on the side of an oklahoma republican, but i hope coburn's bill passes. maybe even ted steven's constituents will be embarrassed when the scope, and the harm, of this sort of behavior become known.


I doubt it. The potential capacity for political apathy ok so I just wanted to use this rhyme. sue me. on the part of the American people *edit* as a whole *edit* is staggering...then again we are talking about their pocket book and wallets so who knows.
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mouse



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PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 6:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

well, you may be right, particulary considering it's alaska - an alaskan on another forum was telling us about some of the candidates in the election about 4 years ago - some of them were absolute, certifiable, loons.

apparently, that's all good in alaska.
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Darqcyde



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PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 6:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sooo Insomnia is to blame for the insanity!?!?!?!? DUN-DUN-DUN!!!!!
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Agamemnon



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PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 8:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mouse wrote:
the fact that a guy like coburn (a stauch right-winger) would come up with this bill tells you something about how serious the problem is. it's so bad, it's even worrying conservatives.


Most conservatives would worry about this. It's why we call ourselves "Fiscally Conservative." This should be expected from right wingers. We usually deride left wingers for their overspending.


And incidentally, I love how the conversation after the article has centered around Stevens and there's no mention of Byrd. *whistles* Razz
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Monkey Mcdermott



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PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 8:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ITS A COOT OFF!!


But seriously, Byrd may be senile, but Ted Stevens is a fucking loon.
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Marik



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PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 8:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
And incidentally, I love how the conversation after the article has centered around Stevens and there's no mention of Byrd. *whistles*


It's not a conservative-republican thing. Stevens is already notorious for pork with the single most egregious example (the bridge to nowhere), and he's regarded as being loco. He was the one babbling in that infamous 'the internet is a series of tubes' speech that got parodied for a long time in YTMND.
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