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Don't let the Rethugs and their complicit media fool you. All earmarks are not bad things

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NNN0LHI Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 10:07 AM
Original message
Don't let the Rethugs and their complicit media fool you. All earmarks are not bad things

Congressional earmark welcomed by the people it helps locally


WASHINGTON -- Earmarks a bad thing? Don't tell that to Grace McClelland.

As executive director of Highland Park's Ruth Ellis Center, providing services to homeless and at-risk gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teens and young adults, McClelland has no problem with Congress doling out money for favored programs -- as long as they're worthy.

She'd say her street outreach effort qualifies. Last year, it had contact with nearly 15,000 people, providing counseling, clothing, blankets and food.

This year, it's getting $366,600 in congressional funding.

"These kids have had guns pulled on them," she said. "They've been thrown out on the street."

Earmarks -- called congressional spending mandates by some, and pork by others -- are a perennial target of Washington reformers, and never more so than in an election year.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, who has all but wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination, has long railed against earmarks as wasteful. And Democrats have focused attention on the process since taking the majority in the House and Senate in 2006.

In theory, earmarks are easy to dislike, particularly with examples like the so-called Bridge to Nowhere (a proposal for a $223-million bridge to an Alaskan island with 50 residents). Groups like the Washington, D.C.-based Taxpayers for Common Sense routinely highlight some of the most outrageous examples.

The problem, the group says, is the lack of oversight.

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napi21 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 10:19 AM
Response to Original message
1. No they're NOT all bad, BUT, when the US economy is in such
bad shape, what's wrong with suspending all earmarks and simply requiring any member to presend his "emergency" to Congress for discussion & a vote? As far as bicycle paths, park improvements & things like thatdon't you really think they can wait another year? I can't help viewing this financial mess the same as I view my own household. When money gets tight, WE CUT BACK and we simply don't spend money on anything that isn't a necessity!
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jbfaus1964 Donating Member (9 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 10:37 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. spending is out of control!!!
AMEN!!!!! I am so tired of being told I need to pay more taxes, while Congress does not in anyway attempt to control spending. The problem is that people want to cut spending, just not the spending that affects them. Until that attitude changes, spending will never come under control!
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mondo joe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-16-08 01:11 AM
Response to Reply #2
15. War and other uncalled for spending may be out of control - but that isn't the case
regarding legitimate infrastructure needs.
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JackRiddler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 11:19 AM
Response to Original message
3. "earmarks" is a distorted frame for looking at federal spending
There is a chaotic set of subsidies dispensed by individual congress critters to their own districts and clients. These supposedly take up a hundred billion dollars, a great deal of which probably has a decent economic function or a genuine humanitarian one. And a lot of it is a waste and corrupt, but who's going to sort it out earmark by earmark?

Meanwhile, the federal deficit is aiming for the half-trillion range as usual, or may end up much higher due to the recession.

There are two planet-sized, total sinkholes eating up about 3/4 of the federal budget (which does not in an honest accounting and should not include the insurance schemes financed on separate charges that are actually in surplus and used to cover the deficit, i.e. social security).

The two sinkholes are war and interest. Under war, I include the "regular" "defense" budget, and all its adjuncts disguised as NASA or the Energy Department or as "extraordinary" expenditure for the Iraq rape. This resource and tax eating machine supposedly maintains an (increasingly theoretical) capacity to bomb and otherwise fuck up anyplace, anytime, on behalf of whatever is declared to be the "American" or "humanitarian" interest at that moment by the executive. And it's the reason for the deficit, and thus for the debt as well.

So, the question rather than earmarks should be why Democrats (and all politicians) aren't calling for a cut in "defense" spending.
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jbfaus1964 Donating Member (9 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 04:53 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. please say it ain't so
Please tell me you do not blame military spending on all of our budget woes??? Even if we cut the military budget in half, they would only take that money and put it toward social spending. They would not put it toward the deficit! We've got millions of people about to qualify for Social Security and please do not forget, we're about to start a National Health care program....There is no end of spending in sight!

By the way, do you really want the inept government we have running our health care??? Cause you know they've done such a good job with Social Security, Medicare, and the VA system! Ask the military guys how they feel about government run health care! Ask all those Canadians and Europeans coming here for medical care how government sponsored health care is going!

I am just sick of it all!
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 05:03 PM
Response to Reply #4
6. SS, Medicare and the VA are some of our best programs.
And, Canadians and Europeans are happy with their systems. It's better than dying as we do.

Listen to Rush a bit much?
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jbfaus1964 Donating Member (9 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 05:26 PM
Response to Reply #6
9. you've got to be kidding
I have 2 children with very unusual medical problems. I have contacts all over the world with parents whose children have the same problems as mine. I was told by a UK mom and doctor that one of my children would not have been treated for his illness because he has Down Syndrome. The news from these parents from other countries is not good!

By the way, you do not have to have sick children to find out this info. It only takes a few minutes of research (newspapers, health magazines, etc...) from other countries to find out the problems other countries are having. Try it sometime!
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 09:32 PM
Response to Reply #9
11. That's simply untrue. I have friends in the UK and in France
They grumble about how long some things take but they're much better off than I am with no insurance at all.

You sound like one of those small government Democrats.


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hay rick Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 07:51 PM
Response to Reply #4
10. it ain't so
As you requested.

Our budget woes are largely attributable to military spending, particularly the special appropriations for Iraq and Afghanistan, AND the Bush tax cuts.

If they cut the military spending in half we would still spend significantly more than any other country. The money saved would reduce the deficit unless other appropriations were very significantly increased. The "social spending" programs you deride are mostly mandates (entitlements) that do not rely on appropriations for funding.

With the boomers approaching retirement we should be running surpluses, not deficits.

Do I want the government "running" healthcare? No. I want medical professionals doing that. Do I want the government operating a single-payer system and cutting out the insurance companies and the 20% they add to every bill? You betcha.

Americans, who depend on shows sponsored mostly by pharmaceutical companies for their news, are largely ignorant of the single most important fact about our health care system: we spend twice as much as everybody else for comparable or inferior results. Google "per capita health care costs." Read it and weep. Then, if you're really feeling masochistic seek out international public health metrics: life expectancy, infant mortality, etc.

A large number of people will bitch about ANY health care system. If that's all you listen to, you will surely give up. We can and should do much better.
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jbfaus1964 Donating Member (9 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 11:45 PM
Response to Reply #10
12. You cannot use infant mortality as an accurate measure
of the quality of health care found in a country. The United States counts all births as live if they show any sign of life, regardless of prematurity or size. We include all when other countries report them as stillbirths. For example, in Austria and Germany, a baby must weigh 1 pound to count as a live birth. In Austria and Germany a live birth is defined by the length of the baby. If the baby is under 12 inches it is not counted as a live birth. In France and Belgium births less than 26 weeks are registered as stillborn. (By the way, my twins were born at 25 weeks, and they were definitely alive) Basically, because the US tries to save all babies, no matter their size, weight, age, disability, we will always show statistics higher than other countries.

As far as single-payer health care plans.... These systems often cut costs by limiting surgeries for the elderly, withhold care from very premature infants,(which reduces their infant mortality rate), reduce care for children with disabilities, they limit MRI availability, and restrict access to specialists(just to name a few). As I stated previously, I belong to a group of families that are either in a single payer system or a universal type system. These parents are always amazed at the care that has been given to my children. We have spent long periods of time in Ronald McDonald homes and I cannot even begin to tell you how many families I have met that have chosen to come to America for the care of their children. They have told me their systems are fine for basic health care, but if you have serious issues you are in trouble. These families also have never been turned away by an American doctor for lack of funds. One of the specialist my son sees will not turn down any family due to lack of insurance.

One of the many reasons insurance is so high in America is due to the government's involvement in the insurance industry. For example, there is no way I could be become pregnant(all parts gone) however I am unable to purchase insurance without that coverage included. I do no drink or take drugs, however, I cannot purchase insurance with out drug rehab coverage. This is all due to state regulations. I think we should look at insurance market reform before we start a single payer system that is found to be having all kinds of problems in the countries with this type of system.

While we are on the subject I'll vent just a little more...We have an issue in this country with personal responsibility. I am a single mom and there was a time when I had to make a choice between spending money on things such as cable, etc.. I chose health insurance. We did not have a television in our house for the first 5 years after the birth of my twins. I spend a lot of time in "low income" homes where I find big screen televisions and new cars. For some reason a large portion of Americans have decided they should never have to make choices. They want it all. I realize we need programs for those who cannot take care of themselves. My mom was mentally ill and never was able to work. I would never think of not helping people such as her. However, we have too many Americans that are fully capable of providing health insurance for their family, but choose not to.

By the way, my facts do not come from the "Pharmaceutical Companies".
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jbfaus1964 Donating Member (9 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-16-08 12:46 AM
Response to Reply #12
13. picking on low income families
I decided to add a little more. I do not want you to think I am just picking on low income families. I also see people in higher incomes taking advantage of programs for those who really need them. I know a family that lives in a $500,000 home(which in Georgia is a huge home!) Because they are self employed they are able to not claim all their income and qualify for Peach Care. Their children's health care insurance is provided by the state! How about buying less of a home, providing health insurance for your family yourself, and leaving the Peach Care for people truly in need.
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hay rick Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-16-08 10:22 AM
Response to Reply #12
16. continuing discussion of earmarks
So we got off the subject. Thanks for the excellent post. Now it's my turn to respectfully disagree on some points.

I would not suggest that infant mortality statistics are the only measure of the success or failure of our health care system. But it belongs in the mix. I'm sure the reasons you cite do make our infant mortality rates look worse. I also think lousy prenatal and postnatal care for the uninsured and the poor make a large contribution.

The unacknowledged elephant remains the fact that we already spend double what other advanced countries spend on health care. Our spending has gone from 7% of GDP in 1970 to 16%+ and growing. Americans now have negative net savings. Your stated concern is that single-payer countries have some form of rationing based on medical/cost considerations. Our system already has considerable rationing- based on income. There will always be some form of rationing.

I think your argument on "government's involvement in the insurance industry" is weak. The kind of a la carte coverage you seek would put you in a smaller pool and the insurance companies would charge you more. States need to regulate insurance companies to prevent abuse. I see the insurance companies as middlemen whose primary impact is to drive up costs.

Quick story (or non-story). A couple of years ago, the Newark Star Ledger did a piece on malpractice insurance. Costs have been especially steep for obgyn practices. They profiled a local practice which included 5 doctors, 4 nurse-midwives and 45 OTHER EMPLOYEES. The astonishing imbalance of non-medical employees went unremarked in the balance of the article.

A few months later, the same paper published a separate story on malpractice claims in the state of New Jersey. It turned out that claims had gone down slightly from the previous year - to $180,000,000. Premiums had increased anyway because insurance companies had lost money on their investments that particular year. The payout rate was approximately 50% on the premium dollar, so the cost of malpractice insurance was closer to $360,000,000. Sounds like a lot, right? But wait- there are 8,500,000 people in NJ. That comes to about $50 per capita or less than 1% of health care costs. The backup argument from the medical community is that the real cost of malpractice insurance is the need to cover one's ass - prescribing all kinds of marginally useful tests just to avoid any possible appearance of neglect or malpractice. There is some truth to this claim. Conveniently, nobody can say precisely which tests and procedures are medically necessary and which ones are liability-driven overkill. The other thing in the back of my mind when I hear this kind of defense is- these guys get paid by procedure... Dr. A refers to Dr. B, Dr. B refers to Dr. C, Dr. C refers to Dr. A...

Stuff to do. More on the subject of earmarks later...

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Mike03 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 05:02 PM
Response to Original message
5. Yes, Yes! Listening to the news yesterday, I was praying that someone would have the courage
Edited on Sat Mar-15-08 05:03 PM by Mike03
to make this point.

The fact that my Senator, John McCain, could boast about having never secured a single earmark for Arizona only convinced me he was lazy and tone deaf to the needs (obvious needs) of this state.

ON EDIT: Thank you for bringing this point to everyone's attention.
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 05:04 PM
Response to Original message
7. The thing about earmarks is that compared to the War Department,
they are chump change.

At least now they are a bit more transparent.
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ThomWV Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 05:09 PM
Response to Original message
8. After living here for over 20 years our road was finally paved, because of an earmark
Otherwise it would still be a rutted out dirt path with 20 homes on it. Next thing we're hoping for is city water.
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KharmaTrain Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-16-08 01:10 AM
Response to Original message
14. Now Who Abused Earmarks....More Hypocrisy
Two years ago no one heard a word about earmarks...unless it was the minority Democrats who couldn't believe all the crap the GOOP was larding into any and every piece of legislation they ramroded through. For 12 years, DeLay and his henchmen turned the House into their own brothel...fleecing the treasury and using every trick they could to stack the deck for their corporate toadies. Bridges to Nowhere, Naval base in Kansas, Duke Cunningham...I could go on. So now the bastards who abused earmarks want to condemn the whole process...sounds like sour grapes to me. Since they can't get the grease, Democrats can't use the process either. It's a rope-a-dope that is yet another "wedge" issue...little substance but it sure is talked up big.

Earmarks are a good thing when supervised and's a way small states and areas get attention. They don't get the money of the big appropriations and if each and every government request were submitted as a House or Senate bill, they'd never have time to do much else. For over 225 years, earmarks have been part of the budget process and NOW it's a bad thing? Yeah, when you can't get your gubbies on it...

Typical Repugnican clap-trap hypocrisy.
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