Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Politics aside, Politicians Praise MN Largest Earmark

It certainly wasn’t a Mark Antony moment ( you know, ”I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him), yet for less than an hour on Monday, September 15th, the poisonous pox of “earmarks” was not acknowledged … no they came to praise the largest “earmark” project to built in Minnesota in a very long time.

It was a good day … no sneering of the evils of “earmarks” … just a spirit of accomplishment … as it should be. In alternating speeches, Republicans and Democrats gushed in a esprit de corps. Yet there were some differences in the scope of how they approached their few moments of allocated time to address the audience. Congresswoman Michele Bachman (R-06) spoke of in her “Minnesota Nice” manner assuring the crowd that private donations will quickly be funding the 35W Remembrance Garden while Congressman Keith Ellison (D-05) saw this as only a minor start on the need to address the nation’s infrastructure needs. There was much praise for the workers who built this project… Congressman Tim Walz (D-01) thanked the rescue workers … and the children who were on the bus as the bridge was collapsing thanked the volunteers with the Salvation Army and Red Cross for all their assistance since the tragedy occurred.

And throughout it all there was no mention that the only members of the Minnesota delegation voting against a funding bill that included $195 million for funding the reconstruction of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis were Representatives John Kline (MN-02) and Michele Bachmann, both Republicans … as that could have been embarrassing since they were both on the podium giving speeches.

My question is : Isn’t this proof that all “earmarks” are not wasteful government spending ?

While Bachmann and Kline are on a “pork-free” diet, they are not recognizing that the “earmark” process actually dispenses monies for needed projects.
Joe Bodell asked the right question … is this a principled stand against pork, or is Kline cutting off his nose to spite his face ? Bodell’s column is dated, but the intent is valid and he reviews the “earmarks” requested by Congressmen Oberstar, Ellison, Kline and Walz. Bodell finds minor problems with the “earmarks” in the Transpiration bill. My conclusion based on reviewing the Defense and HHS funding bills is that Minnesota’s members of Congress are not abusing the system but that Bachmann and Kline are short-changing their Districts and the State. In Bachman and Kline's world, others get a larger share of the pie ... as the pie does not get smaller ... our needs are not served ... but our monies go elsewhere.

In the First District, Congressman Walz is being challenged by Dr. Brian Davis who has campaigned on “earmark” reform.
Walz has been transparent on his funding requests publishing his 47 "earmark" requests for 2009 appropriations.
From Walz’s press release : “While it is likely that only a few of these meritorious projects will ultimately receive funding, I believe it is important for residents of southern Minnesota to be able to see the list of projects I am supporting and I am proud to release this list of local priorities.”
In this way, voters know Walz’s vision for the District’s needs … Dr. Davis needs to tell voters which projects he does not believe should be funded and any that he would add to the list. If it’s “wasteful government spending”, then tell us and if you plan to adhere to a “pork-free diet” tell us that.

For one hour on Monday, “earmarks” were not evil … they were a bridge to improving our infrastructure ... and there are a lot of bridges that need improving.


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