Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Bridge to Nowhere

You shall not distort justice;
you shall not be partial,
and you shall not take a bribe,
for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise
and perverts the words of the righteous.
Deuteronomy 16:19.

We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debt, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our calling and our creeds... we will have no time to think, no means of calling our miss-managers to account but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers... And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for another ... till the bulk of society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery... And the fore-horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression. Thomas Jefferson

The so-called "Bridge to Nowhere" would have linked Ketchikan, Alaska (population 8,900) to its airport on Gravina island (population 50) at a cost to federal taxpayers of $223 million. This was a graphic example of “pork barrel spending” or something also known as an earmark. This would save all the travelers in Ketchikan the inconvenience of a 15-30 minute, $6 ferry ride. The concept is applied when a politician who holds a powerful leadership position inserts his home states pet project to a much larger and more complex bill affecting the nation that is absolutely needed by all. Quite often, these earmarks are deliberately hidden in a bill hundreds of pages in length. The other politicians are then left with little choice but to allow the foolish spending to go through. Their only other option is to vote down the other spending which is needed and is best for all Americans. This tactic is where politicians have come up with the phrase “bringing home the bacon.” When questioned about the bridge to nowhere, the driving force behind the bridge's funding, the Republican Chairman Don Young of the House Transportation Committee, replied as follows: "I'd be silly if I didn't take advantage of my chairmanship ... I think I did a pretty good job."

More clearly defined, earmarks are funds provided by the Congress for specific projects or programs in such a way that the allocation (a) circumvents a merit-based or competitive allocation process; (b) applies to a very limited number of individuals or entities; or (c) otherwise curtails the ability of the Executive Branch to independently manage the agency budget. Thus, an earmark circumvents the appropriations process, as outlined in the Constitution, where Congress grants a lump sum of money to a Federal agency each year and leaves the management of that money to the Executive Branch.

Earmarks are an ongoing debate in congress. We must strongly encourage our representatives to end this corruption. Since the party in power controls the leaders of the committees who draft and control what goes into the bills … whoever is in power is usually in favor of earmarks. Both Republicans ad Democrats are guilty of using earmarks. Some would argue that those who won have a mandate and should be able to reward their supporters, and that the amounts involved in earmarks are minimal in the big picture. Also they argue that many of these earmarks provide jobs and other resources to groups that are in great need. As absurd as this logic is … is there a bigger problem?

Absolutely! The bigger issue here is corruption and bribery. This a key tool used to pay back lobby groups that provide political donations for election and re-election. Also earmarks are a primary way that BRIBES can be paid to get the needed votes in both houses to pass unpopular legislation. When this logic is pushed to its end, the result is political corruption at its worst. The most obvious recent example of the power of the evil use of earmarks is the recently passed health care legislation. Unable to get the needed votes within their own party, and with no hope of passing the bill, Democratic leaders started meeting with the Democratic party “no” voters, one by one. The result was a series of backroom deals that sent Billions of taxpayer dollars to a handful of states in exchange for their changed vote. In Vermont, that meant 10 billion in funding for new community health centers throughout the state. This is just another version of the “Bridge to Nowhere.” Sure, health care centers are of far greater value than a bridge that provides very little benefit, but forcing taxpayers throughout the US to build Vermont’s new projects as a bribe payoff is wrong, regardless of how it is rationalized by Harry Reid and President Obama.

Ending earmarks is a bullet to the heart of politics as usual. What about a line item veto that would allow for the president to remove these earmarks? Well, that would be good as well, as long as we can trust the president. But, if the president is likely to use this tool as a way to repay his donors, cronies and union buddies, then that doesn't make sense either. “Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others?” In the end it must always come back to the American people. When the politicians cease to follow the constitution and its instructions to serve all of the American people … we must vote them out. “The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.” and “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” Jefferson

Unfortunately, it appears that many Americans have developed an entitlement mentality and expect that the government is responsible for their provision, and that the only way to get it is to appropriate it from someone else. That is not consistent with the intent of the founders of America or our constitution. “A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” and “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” and “Yes, we did produce a near-perfect republic. But will they keep it? Or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom? Material abundance without character is the path of destruction.” and “The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest.”
All quotations by Thomas Jefferson

“When the people find they can vote themselves money … that will herald the end of the republic.” Benjamin Franklin

Can the American people be trusted to not fall for the temptation of voting themselves money?
Are our political leaders walking America across a Bridge to Nowhere?

God bless you my friend, Bob

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