Ear-marked

Posted: March 13, 2009 in Barak Obama, earmarks, Economics, Ted Kennedy
Tags: , ,

               

Wickipedia offers this definition of earmark based on its origin:

Earmark is a term that dates to the 16th century, originally referring to cuts or marks in the ears of cattle, deer, pigs and sheep made to show ownership, age and/or gender.

That is where our current use derives.  It was a mark of ownership.  To take the term back in farther, in ancient Israel a slave who wanted to remain with his master, even after his years of servitude were completed, would have a hole bored through his ear with an awl.  The mark said he belonged to the master and was willing to stay with him.  Again, it was a sign of ownership.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the term as used in politics:

In US politics, an earmark is a congressional provision that directs approved funds to be spent on specific projects or that directs specific exemptions from taxes or mandated fees.

Here is the language from the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) web site:

Earmarks are funds provided by the Congress for projects or programs where the congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the Executive Branch to properly manage funds. Congress includes earmarks in appropriation bills – the annual spending bills that Congress enacts to allocate discretionary spending – and also in authorization bills.

Check out the massive list of earmarks just listed under Transportation/Housing & Urban Development sub-committee here http://earmarks.omb.gov/resources/2009_citation_pdfs/senate_committee_citation_420.pdf

There you will find items for wildlife crossings–how do wildlife know where to cross? Can they read the signs?–to the restoration of the Western Union building in Toledo, Ohio.

I see a connection between the agricultural definition and the political one.  The pig, the cow, the slave, the taxpayers money, are considered to be owned by the one marking the ear (so to speak).  And to the extent that our money represents a piece of our lives, our congressmen believe they own us.  They have the right to take the money from people in Florida, or Missouri and spend it on latest public boondoggle named for Robert Byrd in West Virginia, or perhaps a monument to the  monumental courage of Ted Kennedy.  Congratulations are in order for Teddy.  He just won the Profiles in Courageaward from his niece Caroline.  I am sure there was no nepotism involved.  I suggest the monument (should one come) be erected on Chappaquidick at Martha’s Vineyard.  It is a lovely spot and a great place for diving.  The money could be placed in a sub-committee’s earmark and never noticed by anyone.

When Nancy Pelosi and her gang of reformers took over Congress in 2006 they promised they were going to get rid of this really bad practice of earmarks.  It was really bad at the time because the Republicans were guilty of the practice.  Thanks, Republicans, for acting like Democrats!  I had a young man actually tell me that he was voting for Obama because the Republicans were the big spenders.  That is not how it is supposed to be.  Of course, Democrats are bigger spenders, but why behave like them?  But Pelosi and Co. were going to eliminate the earmarks.  They promised.

Did it happen?  Did Teddy ever report the accident at Chappaquiddik?  The answer to both is “no.” 

But, not to worry, Barak Obama promised not to sign any bill that had any earmarks.  These are new times.  But alas, the omnibus spending bill he just signed was laden with over 9,000 earmarks.  Oops.  Promise not kept? 

My son explained it to me on his voice mail message.  “I guess any earmark that Obama doesn’t like is bad.  Those he likes are good.”  In the era of Obama, that is reason enough.  He only cares for us.  He is not like all those other politicians who have come before him.  He has only the best interest of the American people at heart.  It is not even right to call  him a politician.  He transcends politics.  He stands above it all.

But honestly, why quibble about a million here, or a million there on pet projects designed to get your congressman re-elected.  When we’re spending money to bail-out failing institutions by the hundreds of billions, what’s a friendly million dollar earmark among friends?

That strange pain your in ears may not be from listening to Harry Reid whine.  Your local politician may just be giving you his awl.

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