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Obama sends the wrong message to Congress

President Barack Obama, omnibus spending bill, earmarks, deficit, debt, pork barrel spendingPresident Obama had the opportunity this week to strike a blow for fiscal responsibility and good government. Instead, he essentially told lawmakers to go forth and sin no more. Hey, it's a federal forgiveness package!

Congress sent Obama a bloated $410-billion omnibus appropriations bill (HR 1105) that not only increased spending on domestic programs by 8% on average, but also provided $7.7 billion for a stunning 8,500 earmarks. I wasn't outraged by the earmarks -- I tend to view the pork-barrel process as a turf battle between various branches of government, not an exercise in Jack Abramoff-style corruption. What bugged me was Congress' evident disinterest in Obama's post-stimulus-package call to make tough choices and rein in spending.

"Disinterest" probably isn't the right word. "Disdain" seems closer to the truth. Consider what happened after White House spokesman Robert Gibbs tipped the White House's hand in the days leading up to final passage. In essence, Gibbs said the White House would abide the pork in this bill but would work with Congress to curb earmarks in the future. Here are Gibbs' comments on March 4:

The president believes the best way to reduce wasteful spending is to work with Congress in order to do that. We've seen throughout the past few years that the amount and the number of earmarks in legislation has been cut significantly. The president believes we can do even more and looks forward to working with Congress to ensure that that happens.

In response, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) gave Gibbs the verbal equivalent of the back of his hand. "I don't think the White House has the ability to tell us what to do," Hoyer told reporters, adding, "I hope you all got that down." Yes, they did.

Hoyer's remarks may not rank up there with the Kremlin baiting lame-duck President Bush by rolling tanks into Georgia, but it was a test all the same. And Obama flunked. The White House doesn't have much ability to tell lawmakers what to do, but it can certainly tell them what not to do. And now clearly is not the time to provide big increases in federal programs. I mean really, how long can Congress continue to use the recession as an excuse to drive the country ever deeper into debt? The correct White House response to the omnibus bill would have been a veto, not a speech about what Congress should do next time.

That speech had nary a word about the spending increases that contradicted Obama's call for fiscal discipline. Instead, the president discussed his ambivalent attitude toward earmarks, which he contended are not fundamentally wasteful or corrupt. He offered some good suggestions for preventing the next Abramoff from using appropriations bills to steer tax dollars to private interests. Yet it rang hollow to hear a Democratic president with strong Democratic majorities in the House and Senate say, "This piece of legislation must mark an end to the old way of doing business." No, Mr. President, the election you won was supposed to mark that end. As Obama noted earlier in the speech, with no hint of irony, "[L]eadership requires setting an example and setting priorities, and the magnitude of the economic crisis we face requires responsibility on all our parts." Let's hope the new administration's priority isn't to let Congress dig the deepest possible hole for the taxpayers.

Credit: EPA / Shawn Thew


Comments () | Archives (10)

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I like Obama, voted for him and have been supporting him thus far on his agenda. But on this particular bill he truly does need to step up and keep his promise. That many, lets say for the sake of argument 95 percent of these earmarks are for good noble causes is irrelevant. What is of relevance is that they cannot be properly funded, ie. congress and the president are bouncing a check to pay for them. There are many ways in which I would like to improve my personal household. My back fence is falling down, would like to enhance my garden a little bit, would like to make my water heater more efficient, etc., however I do not currently have funds in my checking account to subsidize these projects. Does that mean I should just go down to my local Home Depot and pass an NSF check to get these things done. Of course not. These things will just have to wait for another day and in the meantime I will have to make due. And that is what I would propose our country should have to do, OR at least have these regional/state projects funded, if they can be funded at the state level and at the individual states discretion there budgets permitting. Some fiscal responsiblity is in order and it is not being displayed here.


The difference between President Bush and President Obama is that President Obama knew he could not keep his campaign promises while President Bush could not spell "promises".


Obama signs what he acknowledges as an imperfect bill then give us some drivel about if his administration finds flawed earmarks they will try to restrict them. That is the largest load I have heard to date. Once he signs the bill 99% chance that he will forget all about those imperfect earmarks. He makes a speech about what he wants to do but there is no legislation to do it and why would he sign a bill chock full of PORK knowing it has PORK and then turn around and feed this tripe to the American public.
Obama must really be what the native americans call man who speaks with forked tongue.


I agree that we need to lower spending, especially on the Federal level. The pet projects may be wasteful, but the process of earmarking these projects is prudent. Rather than Congress "giving" the President $410 billion to spend however the Executive Branch deems appropriate, Congress should insist on earmarking every dollar so that our money can be accounted for. (For example, $100 million for "project A", $50 million for "project B", etc.) All taxpayer money, whether for bailout, stimulus or budget, should either be earmarked or given back to the people in the form of payroll tax relief.

Paul Duvane

Break out the hip boots! You finally got one right.

It has to be painfully obvious that both the White House and the liberal dems are using the economy to mask the most incredible spending orgy in history. Almost as serious is the determination by Congress that, because American voters are such morons, they can push through the most radical policy changes in our lifetime with nary a whisper of public review.

Ken Stephens

Obama is an eloquent speaker with grand ideas, magnificent plans, but no follow through. I think
he values his popularity so much that he refuses to take decisive action. Think about it. The only decisive
action he has taken is to encourage abortion. He has pussy footed around with Russia, Iran, Cuba, the Taliban etc, talking
like a coward. I hope he has the steel in him to stand up for America and the values of it's people.


What happen here , I thought Change in how Government is going to run. This time forward. The President has lost his Bite. The Congress does'nt care, business as usuall.
Both sides of the aisle are running a muck.
Self interest and waste hey it 's only a billion here a biillion there and know way to pay it back.
Hyper inflation is coming down the track and higher cost to all of us . There goes the tax break to the middle class.
So wheres the beef.
regard, All us little joe main street.

Jon Healey

Hey Paul D -- I won't quibble with you over my batting average here, but "Break out the hip boots"? I'm assuming that's an unfamiliar apocalyptic reference, something along the lines of subzero temperatures in hell and an atmosphere thick in flying insects....


Let the POTUS be the POTUS
It has been said that intelligence--that which is suppose to distinguish humans from other animals--is a survival tool. It allows us to reason logically, learn from our mistakes and scan the environment to gather data upon which to make our judgments. If this is an accurate synopsis of what is meant by the term, we must then acknowledge some hard, ugly truths.

One of these truths is that many of today's writers and commentators lack much intelligence. I've come to this conclusion because many of the same naysayers, who commented on the POTUS during the presidential campaign, continue to be unduly impressed with themselves and the loud noise they try to pass off as news analysis. Those who do statistical analysis make call this white noise because it isn't really real but rather is an illusion. So dumb dumbs, just because you can speak out doesn't mean you should when what you have to say does nothing more than add to the noise by being wrong.

Perhaps two of the most elegant examples of these dumb dumbs are Jim Crammer and Rick Santelli. Jack Welch belongs to the club as well. The frightening aspect about these three idiots is that they are all rich. Their wealth and prominence points to the awesome reality that one can be a dumb dumb but still become rich and even a powerful CEO. I can't help but wonder how much Jack Welch's tenure at GE has contributed to development of the very ditch the POTUS is trying to lift us all out of. Since Welch thinks Joe Scarsborough’s noise has merit, truly Welch is a pretty stupid and immoral but wealthy dunce. All of these ding dongs deserve Bush 43.

As far as the POTUS' signing of the omnibus bill goes, I believe it is the POTUS' prerogative to choose his own battles. I also think the lack of moral responsibility John McCain demonstrated, by nominating Sarah Palin to be one heartbeat away from the Presidency, precludes any legitimate claim to leadership from him. Clearly this man has lost the claim to being a good “strategic” thinker.

Lacking the common sense and good grace to just sit down and shut up--having lost and having no real call to national leadership by the American people—McCain and the other aforementioned dumb dumbs now seem to be making a sport out of Obama bashing. I say sport because their commentary can't be taken seriously, given that it is based on their very flawed opinions or the distorted pieces of information they apparently believe constitute facts. Rather, their commentary is gamesmanship only, white noise aimed at slowing down and blocking the POTUS’ implementation of the very change agenda he was elected to institute. So much for their decrepit claims of American patriotism. What they are trying to maintain is their version of American democracy and that version is based on a form of economic despotism.

I call on these clowns, to let the POTUS be the POTUS.


Thanks for the linkback :)




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