Friday, February 15, 2008

From Fat Congressional Earmarks, to Pork in Berkeley

Few things illustrate the difference between liberals and conservatives like the spending of taxpayers’ money. The recent stupidity in Berkeley, where their witless City Council tried to expel a Marine recruitment office, has resulted in another case study of spending philosophies.

On the one hand we have the Republicans, who note that: “…the city of Berkeley insulted our troops and their constitutional mission to defend our country, while still coming to the federal government asking for special taxpayer-funded handouts.”

The total of $2,145,000 in special handouts to Berkeley, also known as congressional earmarks, include $87,000 for a school garden, $750,000 for ferry service between Berkeley and Albany, $94,000 for an emergency communications system, $975,000 for the Robert T. Matsui Foundation for Public Service at UC Berkeley, and $239,000 for the Ed Roberts Campus.

Before I go any farther, there are obviously going to be many proponents and defenders of federal government funding for each of these programs, and a lot more. Gardening is good, ferries are good, emergency communications are essential, public service is mother’s milk for Democrats (since their strongest support comes from public service unions), and the Ed Roberts Campus serves disabled adults and children.

So why should federal funds be taken from these programs?

That’s not the question.

Why were federal funds given these programs in the first place? Better yet, how were federal funds given these programs?

The answer to the second question first. The funds were given via congressional earmarks, also know as “pork-barrel spending,” or “pork” for short. Each item was approved as a part of a process that enables a congressperson to show their constituents that they can “bring home the bacon.”

The primary reason that the Berkeley earmarks won’t be eliminated by congressional action is simple: congresspersons don’t want to invite retaliation to remove their own earmarks. The earmark process is based on the old adage, “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” but what perpetuates the system is the clear threat, “You gore my ox, and I’ll barbeque yours.”

To answer the first question of why these particular items were chosen for federal funding is to delve deeply into the confused psyche of political perceptions. The first step is to consider the nature of resources. They are finite and limited, whereas the need for resources verges on the infinite and unlimited.

Therefore, since unlimited needs are pursuing limited resources, who gets what becomes a reflection of who has the power.

For example, why does a Berkeley school get funds for a school garden when an Oakland school can’t provide enough textbooks for its classes?

Because Congresswoman Barbara Lee wants to show Berkeley voters she can bring home the bacon for them. She knows that Oakland voters will vote for her up to the point her vital signs are flat lines, and probably even after that, so she doesn’t have to prove anything to them.

Senator Barbara Boxer, of course was apoplectic about punishing Berkeley by having earmarks withdrawn and given to the Marines. “Why on Earth would we punish decent citizens because some members of their local government…say something that’s highly offensive?”

Why indeed?

One reason is that the decent citizens of Berkeley chose their members of local government, and can choose to remove them if they don’t agree with what they did.

A better reason would be that the programs funded by the earmarks are not the urgent and valid responsibilities of our federal government anyway, whereas funding the Marine Corps is. Doubters of this point should read the Constitution of the United States of America.

Another point would be that Berkeley aided and abetted activities that interfere with the lawful functioning of an agency of the federal government.

What does Barbara Boxer have to add to defend Berkeley’s right to retain federally earmarked funds? Does she think Berkeley has a right to them, regardless of what is said or done? Does she think there is no better use for the funds, such as in the defense of our borders?

I wonder if she is aware that defending our borders is a federal government responsibility under our Constitution, whereas school gardens, ferry services, etc., are not?

I bet she thinks it’s the other way around.

Even if Berkeley apologized to the Marines and rescinded Code Pink’s parking space, the correct action would still be to take away Berkeley’s earmarks and put them to better use.

In fact, all earmarks should be rescinded and the funds put to better use.

If that were to happen, I would consider the “Battle of Berkeley” one of the most significant of all Marine victories, one that should be proudly added to the “Marine’s Hymn.”

From fat congressional earmarks, to Pork in Berkeley
We shot down constitutional abuses, while setting the budget free
If the Senators and Congressmen, ever look at their responsibilities
They would find they include Marine recruiting
And not the school gardens of Berkeley.

(With humble apologies to the Marine Corps. I'm saluting them at the same time I'm ridiculing Democrats and Berkeley. Some of my best friends, and a few relatives, are or were proud Marines.

Alice and I just returned from Peleliu, where 1,500 Marines and 300 GIs gave their lives, and so did 11,000 Japanese, to ensure that Democrats and Berkeley residents are free to disrespect our soldiers and to praise our enemies. However, the hard-won American freedoms that so many bought so dearly don't included a right to pork-barrel funding.)

Semper Fi

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