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A New Budget “Deal”

All animals are equal…

My apologies to Mr. Orwell. The shutdown-averting budget bill that passed the Senate last night (10/17/13) is one more example of how deeply flawed our system has become. In addition to raising the debt ceiling, thereby allowing deficit spending to continue unabated, even as our national debt approaches the 17 Trillion dollar mark, there are earmarks aplenty. Technically not earmarks, since they are frowned upon, but not quite bribes. At least not that we know about.

For instance, among others, are these gems:

One provision would let the government spend $2.9 billion — an increase from the current cap of $775 million — to upgrade the Olmstead lock on the Ohio River. The two states it straddles are represented by two of the Senate’s most powerful members: the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, and No. 2 Democratic leader, Richard Durbin of Illinois. Harry Reid was quick to point out, “This is not an earmark.”

The measure would also lift the usual $100 million limit on Federal Highway Administration emergency highway aid to $450 million for Colorado. State officials have said last month’s flooding destroyed 200 miles of roads and 50 bridges. Both Senators from Colorado are Democrats.

The legislation, which keeps federal agencies functioning through Jan. 15, provides an extra $294 million during that period for the Veterans Affairs Department’s efforts to reduce backlogged claims.

There is also an additional $100 million to prevent furloughs of air traffic controllers and safety inspectors.

There is extra money for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to continue work on two weather satellites.

There is additional money to allow the Defense Department to continue assisting African forces pursue Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group accused of atrocities.

The bill provides extra money for contracts with private companies whose ships move American troops and their equipment overseas.

Granted, it is a far cry from the days when these sorts of bills would have hundreds of “earmarks,” but still, have they not even a vestige of shame? The debt increases hourly, and these alleged public servants keep spending more and more and more. Our dollar declines in value thanks to our runaway debt, our ever-increasing debt ceiling and the attendant battles over it, and our government’s continuing policy of quantitative easing.

Of course, the bill does impose terrible suffering on our representatives and senators. They are forced to forego a cost-of-living on their 174,000-dollar a year salaries. But that shouldn’t hurt too much. Harry Reid, for example, has a net worth of 5 million dollars. His counterpart on the minority side, Mitch McConnell, is worth about 10 million or so. Nancy Pelosi, 35 million, give or take a buck. John Boehner, only about 2 million or so. So I can, perhaps, be forgiven for not crying over their COLA problems.

One might be tempted to suggest that people who are worth those sorts of numbers have very little sympathy for the plight of the hoi polloi. One might also wonder how it is that ostensibly “public” servants turn that service into an increasingly lucrative source of personal wealth.

…some animals are more equal than others.

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