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Link Turn – General – Earmarks

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Link Turn – General – Earmarks

Earmarks secure funding for other programs

Still 9 (Tom, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council ,3/18/9, JPG

Myth: Earmarks always represent additional spending. Fact: Earmarks are usually spending carved out of general-purpose money federal agencies receive through the normal budget process. They’re a small portion of the total amount lawmakers agree to spend during a given year. Instead of being part of the general “pot” available for agency priorities, earmarks are a slice set aside by congressional request. “If earmarks go, the amount of money stays the same,” said Charles Konigsberg, chief budget counsel at the independent Concord Coalition, in a interview. “It’s more about who decides how the money will be spent.” Myth: Earmarks are a new way for members of Congress to play mischief with the budget. Fact: Earmarks have been around almost as long as Congress itself. The Government Accountability Office found one example dating to 1791, when Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton requested that $50,756.53 be spent on “several objects.” But the use of earmarks has grown in the past 15 years – along with the federal budget itself. Myth: Earmarks are a way to defy the president’s budget priorities. Fact: Presidents use earmarks, too, to get what they want. But they’re mainly a tool used by members of Congress to advance ideas that don’t make it into a presidential budget. Some members of Congress view earmarks as a necessary check-and-balance against the powers of the executive branch. “The last time we looked at the Constitution, it gave Congress the power of the purse,” said U.S. Rep. David Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations Committee. Obey, speaking last fall at the dedication of the Marshfield Clinic’s Laird Center for Medical Research, noted that no Congress has ever changed a president’s budget by more than 3 percent. “This is a democracy, not a monarchy, and we shouldn’t … throw out the baby with the bathwater because of the abuse of the process by a few people on Capitol Hill.” By the way, the core funding for the clinic’s research center came from an earmark. Now it is home to the Wisconsin Genomics Initiative, one of the most innovative projects of its kind in the world. Myth: Democrats use earmarks far more than Republicans. Fact: Earmarks are pretty much a bipartisan sport. It’s more about which party is in power. Watchdog groups say about 60 percent of earmarks come from the majority party and 40 percent from the minority party. Myth: Earmarks are always used to fund wasteful projects. Fact:  Sure, there’s the “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska and some other notable abuses, but most earmarks pay for projects deemed useful by someone. Most UW System campuses, for example, benefit from earmarks that help support research, training or other activities. While federal agencies don’t generally like earmarks because the money comes from their overall budgets, those agencies have the ability to strictly manage and audit projects they believe are truly wasteful. Earmarks are the well-publicized tip of a much bigger iceberg. Federal spending has grown because of problems imbedded in the other 99 percent of the budget, including major entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid and the accumulation of service payments on the national debt. These days, earmarks are the public-opinion equivalent of an AIG bonus check. But if citizens are really worried about federal spending, as they should be, there are far bigger places to look for savings.

Link Turn – General – Christmas Tree

The plan is a legislative vehicle for funding projects – guarantees the plan can fund both projects

Dupree 10 (Jamie, writer @ WHIO, 3/28/10, JPG

We will get an idea just how disciplined the Congress is in coming weeks on the budget, as lawmakers consider a new supplemental spending bill requested by the White House for earthquake relief in Haiti. The Obama Administration is asking for $2.8 billion to help with ongoing disaster efforts in that Caribbean nation, responding to the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in January. "This request responds to urgent and essential needs," wrote President Obama in a letter sent to Congressional leaders last week.  "Therefore, I request these proposals be considered as emergency requirements." Let me translate that for you: "Therefore, I request that these amount of money needed for these proposals not be paid for, with the cost of the bill simply  added to the deficit." That's what "emergency" spending means in the Congress.  It doesn't go on the yearly deficit figure, but it does get added to the overall federal debt. Yes, you read that right.  If I declare $100 billion in spending as an "emergency" - the yearly deficit does not go up - but the $100 billion does get added to the overall debt. There will be two things to watch for on this legislation - how much more is added on by lawmakers for items that don't have any link to Haiti, and whether any of it gets paid for by offsetting budget cuts in other areas of the federal government. Military supplementals like these aren't usually paid for with other cuts, that's obvious from all the supplemental spending bills through the years dealing with disaster aid, Iraq, Afghanistan and much more.  Democrats and Republicans alike have voted for those with no offsetting budget reductions - the extra spending simply gets added to the federal debt. As for the issue of the ole Legislative Christmas Tree, that is another thing to keep an eye on, as lawmakers look for a legislative vehicle to add on projects near and dear to their hearts.

Plan is a vehicle for unrelated spending

Fraser 10 (Alison Acosta, Director of the Roe Inst. for Econ Policy Studies, 1/26/10, JPG

Fourth - what additional spending would be outside the “freeze” and considered “security”? Emergency spending?  Members of Congress are highly skilled at turning an emergency spending bill into a Christmas tree full of unrelated and outrageous spending.  A new stimulus bill all dressed up as a jobs bill? Capping repayments (e.g. free) of college loans?  New subsidies for child care? Fifth – what level of spending would this ”freeze” apply to? If it applies to last year’s supercharged spending on stimulus steroids baseline, it’s no freeze at all, but a locking in of spending that was supposed to be temporary.  Alternatively, it would be very easy to undo any of the savings. For instance, one small jobs stimulus bill could wipe out all savings. The simple fact is this: no matter how they spin it, the President must hold spending level with last year—minus all the temporary stimulus, TARP and other bailout spending—otherwise this freeze is a fakeroo.

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