Friday, October 9, 2009

The Enemy Is Us

Walt Kelly had a great line in a Pogo strip that went something like. "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Nowhere is this more true than on the question of Congressional earmarks, the nasty little millions of dollars that members of Congress make sure go to favored constituencies to buy support and/or reelection.

Everybody, well, almost everybody, hates earmarks and members of Congress who sponsor them. The picture that comes to mind is some fat cat contributor who is getting mega bucks for his business as a quid pro quo for all the campaign cash.

NOT! Think again. It is us.

Just the other day there was a story in The Washington Times saying that already this year state and local governments had already spent more than $80 million in our tax dollars to pay lobbyists to get more money from the federal government.

This isn't new, it's just getting bigger - dare I say "worse" - because of the recession.

Several years ago I attended a conference where a panel of conservative members of Congress were asked about earmarks. There was embarrassment in the air. To a man (and a woman) these opponents of earmarks confessed to seeking earmarks in appropriation bills at the request of local governments in their districts.

I'm a conservative of sorts and I'm interested in politics so around election time I give some money to local government candidates. As a result I'm on a first name basis with several of them and they usually return my e-mails. Well, when I got home from that conference I sent an e-mail to my local office holder friends asking whether they had spent any of my (our) local government tax dollars to pay lobbyists to try to get earmarks from Washington. Guess what? Not a one replied.

It is my strong sense of things that at least some of these conservative local office holders are spending my tax dollars to get our representative in Congress to put earmarks in legislation. Since my Congressman, a "conservative" Republican, is somewhat of a king of pork in his own right, I doubt that the lobbyist has much of a job to do.

Back to the idea of hating earmarks. I should have added that we hate earmarks, unless of course, they are sponsored by our own fine and upstanding member of Congress and they do something really neat for your home town.

Pogo had it right. We have met the enemy and he is us.

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