August 12, 2007

Hidden Earmarks A Hallmark Of The 110th

When Democrats campaigned in the 2006 midterm elections, they promised to reform the pork-barrel practices of previous Congresses once they took control. They have certainly changed the process, but not in the manner they promised. Instead, for the second time this session, they have buried their earmarks and made accountability nearly impossible while using federal dollars to bolster their incumbencies (via Power Line):

Despite promises by Congress to end the secrecy of earmarks and other pet projects, the House of Representatives has quietly funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to specific hospitals and health care providers under a bill passed this month to help low-income children.

Instead of naming the hospitals, the bill describes them in cryptic terms, so that identifying a beneficiary is like solving a riddle. Most of the provisions were added to the bill at the request of Democratic lawmakers.

One hospital, Bay Area Medical Center, sits on Green Bay, straddling the border between Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, more than 200 miles north of Chicago. The bill would increase Medicare payments to the hospital by instructing federal officials to assume that it was in Chicago, where Medicare rates are set to cover substantially higher wages for hospital workers.

Lawmakers did not identify the hospital by name. For the purpose of Medicare, the bill said, “any hospital that is co-located in Marinette, Wis., and Menominee, Mich., is deemed to be located in Chicago.” Bay Area Medical Center is the only hospital fitting that description.

The primary purpose of the bill is to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program while enhancing benefits for older people in traditional Medicare. But a review of the bill by The New York Times found that it would also direct millions of dollars a year to about 40 favored hospitals, by increasing their Medicare payments.

While the Democrats hailed the SCHIP legislation as protecting America's children, its real intent appears to be protecting Democratic backsides. It rewards hospitals in suburban Democratic districts such as Maurice Hinchey's in New York and Bart Stupak's in Michigan by forcing Medicare to pay above-market rates to hospitals in those areas. The Democrats hid these earmarks by casting them in gobbledygook geographical descriptions that sound broad but actually describe specific hospitals.

Democrats want to exploit Medicare to pay above-market rates in these hospitals to curry favor with unions and with local voters. For instance, a rural Alabama hospital that has not even yet been built will get higher payments from Medicare because it will be listed as a "critical access" facility. It normally wouldn't qualify for that status because of the proximity of another hospital, but Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) got language waiving the standard for any hospital built in Butler. Coincidentally, that's just where Rush Health Systems had planned to build the new hospital.

Medicare is a financial disaster just waiting to crash. Congresses controlled by both parties have failed to address its Ponzi-scheme financials, but this Congress appears determined to loot it for all it's worth before the crash. The 110th's Democratic leadership also seems determined to keep its machinations as secret as possible from the American public, despite their clean-government fervor in 2006.


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» Pork reigns supreme from Sister Toldjah
Captain Ed has the details on the latest report regarding Democrats, earmarks, and pork spending - this time on hospitals in towns and cities that would benefit their re-election campaigns: While the Democrats hailed the SCHIP legislation as protecting... [Read More]

» 110th CONGRESS FEASTS ON PORK from Texas Hold 'Em Blogger
Another broken campaign promise by the Do-Nothing 110th Congress. Power Line reports that the Democrat controlled Congress not only has made the earmarks and pork barrel process worse than the preceding Congresses run by Republicans, they’ve gon... [Read More]

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The huge expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is being fervently touted as being for the children. Anyone opposed is being smeared as being against the children and thoroughly evil. Only the whole bill appear... [Read More]

Comments (13)

Posted by acetag | August 12, 2007 2:33 PM

Why haven't you included the $250 million for your bridge, too? What a hypocrite you are!

Posted by FedUp | August 12, 2007 3:05 PM

Well, the 110th congress is making it's mark in history... to the detriment of the American people!

Posted by docjim505 | August 12, 2007 3:19 PM

Let's try to look on the bright side: that the members of Congress are trying to hide their porkbarrel means they're feeling some heat. Not as much as many of us would prefer (I want heat as in "burning at the stake"), but it's a start.

That the NYT seems to be taking at least some notice of this shell game is also encouraging. Granted, at election time, the NYT will dutifully bury any stories about dems buying votes with porkbarrel or at least pass it off with "everybody does it", but hopefully at least a few of their mind-numbed readers will remember in November.

And, for the record, I realize that porkbarrel is a totally bipartisan problem. However, I'm not prepared to stop criticizing Republicans just because the dems "do it, too".

Posted by burt | August 12, 2007 4:56 PM

I assume that reform means to form again. This has been done. Forget this foolishness that reform means to make less corrupt or better.

I'm in favor of docjim505's heat.

Posted by Jason | August 12, 2007 5:24 PM


Wrong Congress, idiot!!

That said, I don't think anyone is saying the Republicans didn't do the same thing. Democrats, however, were elected to power on a platform of reform and change. This incident merely serves to prove that election slogans are cheap (unless heat is applied to force politicians to keep said promises).

Posted by unclesmrgol | August 12, 2007 5:36 PM

Wow. I begin to see a way to make a lot of money. Just read the bills, find the earmarks, and duplicate the conditions needed to obtain the earmarks.

Posted by Dennis P. Skea | August 12, 2007 5:56 PM

Show you how the system works:
I hit 65 last December. I have a good health care family plan as a retired federal employee. The Social Security people told me I HAD to sign up for Medicare Part A and Part B or risk losing the option. Since the wife and kids still need coverage, I had to keep my "regular" coverage. While my HMO told me not to worry, (and I trust them more than the "gumment") I signed up just to cover my ass. OK (tirade over)

Posted by hunter | August 12, 2007 6:25 PM

This is the least productive congress ever. and Jefferson is still in power, and no one is investigating Feinstein for her corrupt dealings with the military to benefit her family's business, and no one is investigating Reid's land deals, and no one is pushing the other corruption of the dhimmie leadership. Additionally, they decline to deliver on any of their promises to their base.
this could get very interesting, come next year. the reality is this congress is based on a very narrow victory by the dhimmies.

Posted by onlineanalyst | August 12, 2007 6:51 PM

And the King of Pork, John Murtha, is not receiving the derision that he deserves. Nor is West Virginia's Mollohan getting the Duke Cunninham federal penitentiary treatment as he should.

Posted by Porkopolis [TypeKey Profile Page] | August 12, 2007 7:03 PM

Back in 2005, I documented how then Congressman Rob Portman had written into law that the City of Portsmouth would be eligible for USDA funds that were set aside for rural communities though the city was designated as urban by the Census bureau.

Posted by Harry | August 13, 2007 1:19 AM

The interesting thing about Hinchey's earmark for the hospitals is that the state is trying to force them to merge, and this will reduce the pressure on them, which is ironic since probably the major item preventing the merger is abortion. (One of the hospitals is a Catholic hospital)

Posted by Gcoffee | August 13, 2007 8:13 AM

Jason: Wrong Congress? There's only one US Congress. Pork is pork whomever is doing the serving. You will now feast on it like every other democrat whore. Thus, the hypocrite.
You should be more careful about who you call an "idiot."

Posted by Ray | August 13, 2007 10:36 AM

"Why haven't you included the $250 million for your bridge, too? What a hypocrite you are!
Posted by: acetag at August 12, 2007 2:33 PM"

The funds you refer to will be used directly for disaster mitigation. It would be very difficult for any reasonable person to define (or even consider) the release of federal emergency relief funds as "pork."

Remember, this isn't funds being directed to some pet project or program by the use of earmarks buried in a larger spending bill, it is a necessary expenditure which was authorized by Congress and the President to release federal emergency relief funds which exceeds a level normally allowed by law. In this case, the $250 million amount exceeds the legal limit of $100 million per state and therefore an expenditure of this amount requires the consent of Congress and the President. How can you define this as pork?

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