Our Senate, Our Shame

It is all so predictable, and yet still so infuriating.  Yesterday Senate Democrats unveiled a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill that would fund the government through fiscal year 2011.  The bill numbers 1,924 pages.  It includes more than $8 billion in earmarks for some 6,000 pet projects for Senators.  According to the Washington Post report on the legislation, it includes the familiar litany of pork barrel projects — millions for non-profits associated with deceased politicians, hundreds of thousands of dollars to study port dredging and swine management, and on and on.

In this instance, the Senate has failed to pass individual appropriations bills, which is one of its most basic responsibilities.  So, Senate Democrats have followed their game plan from the appalling debacle of the “health care reform” legislation, have combined a dozen individual spending bills into one massive bill that no outsider has had a chance to read, and then have announced that the legislation has to be enacted by the end of the lame duck session or the government will shut down due to lack of funds.  Why not?  Process and public scrutiny be damned.  They are the Senate, after all, and they can do what they want.  They obviously believe that they don’t need to concern themselves with the unmistakable message in favor of fiscal restraint that the voters sent on Election Day, or the effect of this tawdry, trillion-dollar exercise in vote-trading on the United States and its staggering debt problems.

The Senate used to fancy itself “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”  Those days are long since past.  As led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the current Senate appears to be a motley collection of political hustlers who avoid the hard work of legislating in favor of cheap theatrics and gimmicks designed to increase their leverage for getting federal money for their cronies.  At bottom, they just want to get theirs, and this obscene omnibus budget maneuver gives them a shot at doing so.  They have the souls of pirates, rather than the souls of statesmen, and our beleaguered country is suffering mightily as a result.

Airpork

This report is a classic example of the kind of stories we will be seeing more of as the federal stimulus bill funds get spent. It has all of the elements of classic pork-barrel spending — a powerful Congressman focused on bringing money into his district, a spigot of federal funds that continuously spews out taxpayer dollars with virtually no meaningful controls, and a project that makes no economic sense and therefore would never be undertaken by any private entity. The result? A multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art airport that has virtually no flights, virtually no passengers, and heavily subsidized fares — all thanks to Congressman John Murtha, for whom the airport is named!

I wish that the news media would aggressively seek out more of these kinds of stories. With the kind of horse-trading that goes on in the halls of Congress, we can be confident that for every John Murtha Airport near Johnstown, Pennsylvania, there are dozens of unnecessary federal buildings, recreation complexes, bridges to nowhere, and other monuments to pork-barrel spending to be found from sea to shining sea. It is absurd and appalling, and with the enormous amounts of taxpayer money that are being spent through the stimulus bill, it will only get much, much worse.