March 22 08:22 AM
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Real change should start with government earmarks

To the Editor:

Well President Obama is in charge now; can he deliver the changes he promised? We all want and need change; but change does not rest in the President's hands alone. He cannot make or change laws; he only approves or vetoes them. I wonder how serious Congress is about change!

This past year there has been a lot of discussion about earmarks and Congress's affinity for them. During John McCain's campaign, he said "earmarks are out of control." During the 2009 budget session the Appropriations Committee had 23,483 requests for earmarks. An earmark is a request for funds slipped into a bill by a congressman; and that expenditure is not subject to debate. I'm sure some earmarks are worthwhile; but they should stand on merit alone. The MVP of earmarks has to be Ted Stevens of Alaska. Before a jury convicted him of federal corruption charges last year, he inserted 39 earmarks into pending bills for a total of $238.5 million of our tax dollars. Senator Byrd does all right for his home state; in one of his earmarks he slipped in $40 million to expand a federal customs and border agent training center that the Bush administration said it didn't want! North Carolina got an earmark for $500,000 for a teapot museum. I have read estimates as high as $48 billion a year spent on earmarks.

To their credit, Obama and Clinton in the heat of their campaigns joined with McCain to back an amendment to place a one year moratorium on earmarks for fiscal 2009 (amendment sa4347).

But most Senators feel no need for change or to cut spending, and voted it down (29 to 71). I reviewed the list of Senators as to how they voted and to my dismay; I found both of our Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow voted against the moratorium. Read this, you will love Bill #sa4232. The purpose: "To pay down the federal debt and eliminate government waste by reducing spending 5 percent on programs rated (as mandated under the Government Performance and Results Act (Public Law 103-62)) ineffective by the Office of Management and Budget Program Assessment Rating." I applaud Senators DeMint and Allard for sponsoring the bill to cut spending. Ask yourself, if a program is rated ineffective, why are we funding it?

Anyway, a 5% spending cut for ineffective programs was far too severe for Congress to stomach; so they voted it down 29-68. You may ask how our Senators voted; if nay means no, they voted no. If Congress passed a bill to cut spending, trauma teams from all over the country would be rushing to Washington to console lawmakers and lobbyists alike.

Mr. Obama, I think the deck is stacked against you and change; I wish you luck. Mark Twain wrote a hundred years ago during a very corrupt period in Washington, "I suppose an honest man shines more in politics than he does elsewhere; but shouldn't a Senator keep his word or a President should he set a high example? Is keeping one's word so extraordinary a thing when the person achieving that feat is the first citizen of a civilized nation?"

Seems like Washington hasn't changed much in the last hundred years.

Tom Janicki, Almont Twp.
January 28, 2009

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