April 4, 2007

Newspeak For Pork: 'Unrelated Items'

One of the more annoying tendencies of modern culture is to elevate euphemisms to daily usage in order to diminish the unpleasant. Problems became "issues", and "issues" became "opportunities", and so on. The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman introduces a new euphemism to help us feel better about pork-barrel spending, while noting its universality. He calls them "unrelated items":

To President Bush, they are "pork-barrel projects completely unrelated to the war," items in the House and Senate war-spending bills such as peanut storage facilities and aid to spinach farmers that insult the seriousness of the conflict and exist only to buy votes.

But such spending has been part of Iraq funding bills since the war began, sometimes inserted by the president himself, sometimes added by lawmakers with bipartisan aplomb. A few of the items may have weighed on the votes for spending bills that have now topped half a trillion dollars, but, in almost all cases over the past four years, special-interest funding provisions have been the fruits of congressional opportunism by well-placed senators or House members grabbing what they could for their constituents on the one bill that had to be passed quickly.

"Frankly, I don't see a lot of vote-buying here. And if that was what they were after in some cases, it didn't seem to work," said Scott Lilly, who was a longtime senior House Appropriations Committee aide and is now at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress.

The president's own request last year for emergency war spending included $20 billion for Gulf Coast hurricane recovery, $2.3 billion for bird flu preparations, and $2 billion to fortify the border with Mexico and pay for his effort to send National Guardsmen to the southern frontier.

Yes, those items were in the previous supplementals, and they were bad enough then. However, Weisman misses a couple of critical points in his reporting. Last year, Congress had already passed a budget and did not have any other mechanisms to provide for Katrina and the bird flu, both which were -- at the time -- emergent situations. That's what supplementals bills are supposed to fund. Normal spending should get funded through the normal budgeting process, which then counts against the deficit.

No one can pretend that the items included in this supplemental arise from emergencies. In the first place, Congress still worked on the normal funding bills for the budget while they put this together. Everything in this bill, including the funding for the Iraq war, could easily have been folded into the normal budget process. And while an argument could be made that the surge should have gotten special funding given its controversial nature, the fact is that we have been in Iraq for four years now, and we should at least fund existing operations through the Defense Department appropriation process and not through supplementals.

None of the other initiatives come close to emergencies. Nor do they have anything to do with national security. The ratio of pork to necessities also puts this bill beyond the pale, and the process used by Democrats to adopt the two versions of the supplemental makes it very clear that the pork was used to buy votes. That should alarm all Americans, who have to watch their tax dollars used to grease the skids for a bill that demands a surrender of American fighting forces abroad.


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Comments (11)

Posted by Brooklyn [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 4, 2007 2:11 PM

well stated...

the Democrat's supplemental is a disgrace...

but it was to be expected, as Conservatives upset with pork, should have known empowering the unethical Democrat Party would make matters far worse.

the 'teach a lesson' mantra, has only encouraged the irresponsible liberal agenda.

whether it be spending, illegal immigration, fighting the GWOT, taxation, pork, etc...

the Democrat Party exhibits a juvenile, misguided folly, which is deeply concerning.

the excuses and enabling, created by the partisans hiding as journalists in the MSM, are equally troublesome.

Both should be strongly rebuked in 2008...

Posted by nandrews3 [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 4, 2007 2:54 PM

Last year, Congress had already passed a budget and did not have any other mechanisms to provide for Katrina and the bird flu, both which were -- at the time -- emergent situations.

Last year was 2006. Katrina hit the Gulf coast at the end of August '05. Katrina wasn't an "emergent situation" that emerged too late for last year's regular budget process. (Neither was bird flu, for that matter). Ed, you seem to have your years messed up.

If you want to oppose the conditions attached to the supplementals, you should just do that. Don't make up spurious distinctions between the pork used to grease the gears this time and what was used last time.

What you say about including ongoing Iraq war funding in the normal budget, rather than continuing this charade with supplementals, actually makes sense. You should direct this argument at the White House. They should listen to you.

I hope your wife continues to improve.

Posted by starfleet_dude [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 4, 2007 2:57 PM

The real issue here is that Congress is legislating deadlines for the war in Iraq, which Bush clearly rejects. The complaints about pork then are just a distraction from the heart of the matter. The fact that there was pork in past supplementals that Bush had no problem with signing off on when Republicans were in the majority makes it clear that Presidential objections about pork now aren't worth taking seriously.

Posted by Stephen Macklin [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 4, 2007 3:15 PM

Of course when a senior House Democrats goes on national television and explains that they added all the "unrelated items" because they needed the votes to pass the surrender plan, the whole "we weren't buying votes argument rings a little hollow.

Posted by Fight4TheRight [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 4, 2007 3:37 PM

I have a question. Has anyone taken the time to go through this pork-laden supplemental bill and been able to pinpoint exactly what Democratic Congressment votes were "encouraged" for EACH item in the bill?

In other words, is it possible to look at the bill and reveal:

Item#2: $X billion for peanut storage equals a "Yes" vote from:
* Congressman ______ (D)-Georgia
* Senator ___________ (D)-AL

Item#6: $X million for National Democratic Convention equals a "Yes" vote from:

* Congressman _______ (D) - Colorado

Has anyone done that or is it not possible to tell WHO was "persuaded" by each line item to that bill?

Posted by patrick neid [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 4, 2007 3:43 PM

while we jump up and down in our playpens every one of these pork attachments will get passed---probably by bush himself.

Posted by burt [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 4, 2007 3:57 PM

I found something with which I can agree with starfleet_dude about, to wit, "The fact that there was pork in past supplementals that Bush had no problem with signing off on when Republicans were in the majority makes it clear that Presidential objections about pork now aren't worth taking seriously." Congress and the President are corrupt bipartisanaly.

The President has consistently done two things which leave us vulnerable to the leverage of the Democrats. He has needlessly sent up these huge supplementals. If there had been an attempt to calculate the defense budget honestly, any supplemental required would have been small and not carry as much leverage for the porkers. Second, he has no history of using vetoes for controlling spending and earmarks in particular. His only veto in six years was for his personal religious conviction and had essentially nothing to do with spending.

Posted by conservative democrat [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 4, 2007 8:34 PM

Burts right, put the wars costs in the defense budget, not come crying for supplementals later on.Brooklyn, unethical Democrats? What planet are you from? Abramoff,Foley, Cunningham, that list could go on and on. Unethical would describe the gop, you've been watching too much fox news.

Posted by Jackalope [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 4, 2007 11:41 PM

George Orwell addressed this process a long time ago. It's happening, to a much greater extent, in Europe as we speak.

Posted by Jackalope [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 4, 2007 11:56 PM

Posted by sam pender [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 5, 2007 6:45 AM

Hey, I'm overdue on a car payment. I can make it no prob, and will do so today, but can I get in on some of those unrelated items? I mean, as long as we're passing out the buck to pass the buck, I'd like a piece of the action. Seriously, tell ya what Congress, if you want me to support the idea of cutting and running, or if you want me to run around the house in a pink tutu singing Copa Cabana, I'll be happy to do it...my price is $20,000,000,000.00. You can just jot that down as an unrelated item. Such spin and newspeak is non-binding with me anyway ;-)