“What [the bill] does not contain,” Obama added, “is a single pet project, not a single earmark.” The rail example alone casts doubt on that claim, but there were others. Columnist Michelle Malkin identified a number of pet projects, including $2 billion for a power plant in Illinois, $300 million for low-emission golf carts for federal employees, and $65 million for digital TV coupons.
The irony is that, during his brief Senate career, Obama was a powerful voice for open government. “We can all agree that government ought to spend money efficiently. If government money can’t withstand public scrutiny, then it shouldn’t be spent,” he said, sensibly, in 2006 while pushing for the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act.
That law, proposed by Obama and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., demanded the creation of a Google-style search engine to allow anyone to track more than $1 trillion in federal contracts, grants and earmarks. It was an important step toward open government.
But such steps are easily derailed when lawmakers race to meet false deadlines and do their work behind closed doors. The sad fact is that a bill to spend $787 billion flew through Congress in just days with virtually no public input and no real “adult supervision” from the White House.
“Sin in haste, repent at leisure,” the saying goes. Well, our government just acted in haste. And American taxpayers will be repenting that action for years to come.