Friday, January 15, 2010

MN-02: Who Stopped more Pork - Kline or Obama ?

Representative John Kline (R-MN-02) re-election campaign was based on there being too much “pork barrel politics” and that he was going stop it. He encouraged constituents to go to his website Stop The Pork for information on “wasteful government spending”. Too often the projects are relatively small dollars (in government terms) but have names that are meant to aggravate the taxpayers (i.e. $49,410 to install new rubber-tiled tennis courts in Montana).

Granted that there is waste, but has Representative Kline gone after the big dollars programs … or just developed a good campaign concept ?

Would it be best to look for programs that have big dollars now and in to the future.
For example, the terrestrial-based, long-range maritime radio navigation system called the LORAN-C. The Clinton and Bush Administrations sought to terminate this program but to no avail. A Bush 2006 study concluded that in addition to the $37 million-a-year cost of the Loran system, it needs up to $160 million over eight years to complete all upgrades. The Obama Administration states in its budget that although the program is not fully developed, it is already ‘obsolete technology’ and that the ‘Nation no longer needs this system because the federally-supported civilian Global Positioning System (GPS) has replaced it with superior capabilities. The elimination of this program would achieve a savings of $36 million in 2010 and $190 million over five years”. In fact, Loran-C receivers have been taken off the bridges of most merchant ships and the US Coast Guard no longer uses the system.
So a quick check of Representative Kline’s StopThePork website does not indicate any comment on the Loran-C program. When the funding request was voted on in the House ( Roll Call 450 ), Representative Kline voted for it.

So Representative Kline opposes “pork” but what three Presidential Administrations have defined as “wasteful government spending” gets his blessing.
Fortunately for the taxpayers, President Obama eventually prevailed.
In fact, a recent analysis by The Washington Times (not exactly a friend of the Democrats) found that President Obama was victorious in getting Congress to slash 24 programs and achieved some level of success in reducing nine other programs. The article discusses another program that Representive Kline supported … the multibillion-dollar F-22 Raptor program which was discussed in a previous commentary.

In fact, President Obama succeeded in eliminating programs that President Bush repeatedly failed to end. President Obama was successful on 60 percent of his proposed cuts as Congress accepted at least $6.9 billion of the $11.3 billion in discretionary spending cuts. By comparison, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says President Bush won 40 percent of his spending cuts in fiscal 2006 and won less than 15 percent of his proposed cuts for 2007 and 2008.

A last thought is how did we get into this financial debt. David Axelrod wrote an OpEd reviewing the times during the Bush/Kline years : “The day the Bush administration took over from President Bill Clinton in 2001, America enjoyed a $236 billion budget surplus -- with a projected 10-year surplus of $5.6 trillion. When the Bush administration left office, it handed President Obama a $1.3 trillion deficit -- and projected shortfalls of $8 trillion for the next decade. During eight years in office, the Bush administration passed two major tax cuts skewed to the wealthiest Americans, enacted a costly Medicare prescription-drug benefit and waged two wars, without paying for any of it.”
Representative Kline voted for all these problems.

While Representative Kline has an effective campaign concept, he has failed to deliver.
Maybe it’s time for a change this November … it will be fair question at the debates to ask the Democrat challenger and Representative Kline “Will you support President Obama in reducing wasteful government spending … or will you support your Congressional colleagues in continuing funding for obsolete programs?”

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