Obama 'No Pork' Hedge

Posted: Jan 06, 2009 2:32 PM
Barack Obama is playing semantics with his forthcoming spending bill.

The president-elect says he won't permit "members" to insert any earmarks in the $1 trillion spending bill he is crafting to stimulate the economy, but mayors aren't members and they're the ones hungry for some pork.

Today Obama promised to set "new higher standard of accountability, transparency and oversight. We are going to ban all earmarks, the process by which individual members insert projects without review" at a press conference. This may sound all well and good, but the pork in the bill that conservatives are upset about doesn't come from Washington lawmakers.

Obama requested mayors around the nation compile "shovel-ready" projects worthy of government funding and they responded with a whopping 800 pages worth of ideas, many of which would make the average taxpayer hopping mad. The final list, presented in a report called "The Mainstreet Recovery Ready to Go Infrastructure Project" contained $72.2 billion worth of projects that were essentially, earmarks.

The Wall Street Journal culled a list of the most offensive projects in an op-ed today. The "mayoral priorities" included:
$1 million to upgrade the Los Angeles County Convention Center elevated "catwalk" for cameras and lighting
$350,000 for an Albuquerque, N.M., fitness center;
$94 million for a parking garage at the Orange Bowl in Miami
$4.5 million for Gretna, Florida, to bottle water with recyclable bottles
$35 million music hall of fame in Florissant, Missouri
$3.1 million for a swimming pool in Tulsa.
$80,000 for a tennis facility in Santa Barbara
$6 million to renovate the beach at Surfers Point in Venice, California
$1.5 million to reduce prostitution with education programs in Dayton, Ohio
 and Ponce,
$5.7 million to improve a cruise ship terminal in Puerto Rico 

But we're not supposed to believe these are "earmarks" because they weren't submitted by U.S. senator or representative.  Granted, these projects are not guaranteed to be in the final bill, but have been requested. They are options on the table. It remains to be seen exactly what Obama will or will not approve. It

Citizens Against Government Waste has been on this since the report came out last month. President Tom Schatz said,  “It is outrageous that the mayors would use this economic crisis as an opportunity to obtain federal funding for these wasteful, low priority projects, which apparently offer excellent photo opportunities for them, but will do nothing to stimulate the economy in the long term.”