“We are going to ban all earmarks, the process by which individual members insert pet projects without review.” — Barack Obama, Jan. 6, 2009.
Perhaps Mr. Obama is the leader of some political party other than that of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Hawthorne, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Barbary Coast.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and other opponents of the corrupt process of attaching unconstitutional earmarks to often unrelated spending bills “day after day attack the 8,000 pet projects lawmakers have put into a bill setting a good part of the government’s agenda for the next six months,” The Associated Press reported Tuesday. But “What’s new is that more and more lawmakers are standing up to defend their earmarks as vital for people back home.”
For example, allocating 1.8 million hard-earned federal tax dollars to study methods of controlling the smell of pig dung stinks to high heaven in these times of economic struggle, Sen. Coburn insists. “Pigs stink. We know why,” said Sen. Coburn on the Senate floor last week. “So is that a priority right now?”
But Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, defended the pet project that he himself had “larded” into the massive spending bill, without subjecting it to the normal hearing process:
“In farm country, manure and odor management are profoundly serious challenges that can be mitigated through scientific research,” Sen. Harkin squealed.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., came up with his own justification for earmarks, such as the bird-counting computer he infamously inveigled the U.S. Department of Energy into purchasing for UNLV:
“I have an obligation to the people of Nevada to make sure there is not some bureaucrat down in one of these big offices in Washington, D.C., who determines every penny spent in Nevada,” explained Sen. Reid.
The best way to do that, of course, would be to ensure fewer Nevada dollars flow to Washington in the form of federal tax collections in the first place, allowing them to instead be retained and spent right here, without any Beltway bureaucratic oversight whatever.
But Sen. Feinstein of San Francisco may have been the most candid in admitting what the world’s supposedly most sober deliberative body is actually up to, these days.
On Monday, after Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., lambasted the $410 billion spending bill then under consideration — along with its 8,570 earmarks — Appropriations Committee member Sen. Feinstein gave an impassioned defense of the practice.
“Yes, I fight for funds for my state,” she said. “That’s what I came here to do. Candidly, why be an appropriator if you can’t help your state?”
Actually, less than two months ago, Sen. Feinstein provided her own answer when she and her cohorts once again cynically took their oath to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” a document which instructs the senators they are there to exercise a certain limited set of powers for the specific purpose of “providing for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,” — NOT “the specific welfare of the state from which they shall have come.”
It is the duty of the state legislators in Sacramento to defend the local rights and liberties of the state and citizens of California. The smaller, more limited central government in Washington is supposed to represent the combined interests of all the states in only limited areas, which could not reasonably be supported by the 50 states individually, such as the establishment of federal courts, post roads, foreign embassies, an army and a navy.
It most certainly does not authorize the expenditure of limited federal tax dollars for research into the causes of Iowa pig stink. Or does Sen. Feinstein believe the people of California should provide her with a kerchief and an eyepatch, a cutlass and a pistol, the better to fight the other 99 pirates there for her fair share of their ill-gotten booty?
Why does the federal government currently run a deficit massive enough to distort the credit markets, carrying a mind-boggling load of debt which — barring default — our children and grandchildren will be sold into virtual slavery to pay off?
Federal spending could be trimmed by more than half, overnight, if our delegates to Washington merely began asking, of each proposed allocation, “Where, in those 390 words of Article I Section 8, which list ALL the things on which we’re authorized to spend money, does this one appear?”
And let’s have none of the old “general welfare” chestnut. As George Mason University economic professor and syndicated columnist Walter Williams again laboriously pointed out this week: “Let’s look at what the men who wrote the Constitution had to say about its general welfare clause:
“In a letter to Edmund Pendleton, James Madison, the father of the Constitution, said, ‘If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one …’
“Madison also said, ‘With respect to the two words “general welfare,” I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.’ Thomas Jefferson said, ‘Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.’”
Which takes us right back to that short, written list.
Pig stink research? It’s perfectly legal. It may even be worthwhile. But as it has nothing to do with coining money, establishing post offices, granting patents, punishing piracy, or floating a navy, the Congress have no authority to fund it with federal moneys. Period.
In cheerful, blatant, and fiscally disastrous defiance of which, the Senate on Tuesday evening voted 62-35 to end debate and send their latest, humongous, $410 billion pork-filled spending bill (with its 8,570 separate earmarks) to the White House, where a spokesman said President Obama — the sworn enemy of all earmarks, it should be recalled — will happily sign it.