24 February 2009

I think we can safely bury that notion of transparency

After declaring that the stimulus bill would have no earmarks (achieved only by redefining earmark), President Obama will soon be signing a stop-gap 'spending bill' with more than 9,000 official earmarks in it.

Remember that second debate when Sen. McCain slammed the earmark process of an example of wasteful spending in Washington? The one where the President poo-pooed the notion of earmarks contributing all that much, but than said he would be the better champion against them? That was the same debate (the video of the entire debate is in my blog archive) where the now President claimed he would go through the entire budget "line by line." Now we have a 'stimulus' bill that was never read or parsed, a new $410 billion spending bill (that by the way was introduced while the President was conducting the "Fiscal Responsibility Summit" - see yesterday's blog), and talk of yet another stimulus bill for later in the year.

From the title linked article:
"We need earmark reform," Obama said in September during a presidential debate in Oxford, Miss. "And when I'm president, I will go line by line to make sure that we are not spending money unwisely."

President Barack Obama should prepare to carve out a lot of free time and keep the coffee hot this week as Congress prepares to unveil a $410 billion omnibus spending bill that's riddled with thousands of earmarks, despite his calls for restraint and efforts on Capitol Hill to curtail the practice.

The bill will contain about 9,000 earmarks totaling $5 billion, congressional officials say. Many of the earmarks — loosely defined as local projects inserted by members of Congress — were inserted last year as the spending bills worked their way through various committees.

Here's what Obama promised on the stimulus bill (from the Change.gov website, which perversely still says the Office of the President-Elect):

No earmarks

President-elect Barack Obama said today in a meeting with members of his budget team that he will ban earmarks from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that will soon go before Congress.

The President-elect also said he expects his administration to inherit a budget deficit of up to $1 trillion.

He was joined in the meeting by Peter Orszag, Director-designate, Office of Managment and Budget; Christina Romer, Christina Romer, Director-designate, Council of Economic Advisors and Lawrence Summers, Director-designate, National Economic Council, among others.

I don't believe anyone read anything line-by-line, will do so or had any intention of every doing so. I think we can put the whole promise of transparency in the ground now.

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