Congress: The Bastion of Fiscal Responsibility

Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah) was recently called out by members of his own state for an earmark in the just-passed defense bill that took a total of $171 million out of the operations fund of the military for pork spending.  Bennett’s offering to a business in the state of Utah was a $5 million cut for “scrapbook” DVDs to be made for National Guard members.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Bennett’s defense is that it will need to be funded from some place and that this is a very, very small percentage of the overall operating budget.  Huh?  Do these guys really take themselves seriously?  It’s $5 million, and no, it doesn’t need to be funded from “some place.”  In terms of the amount of money the federal government confiscates from the 57 percent of us fortunate enough to pay federal taxes each year, no, it’s not a large amount.  On the other hand, it’s not Senator Bennett’s money and the purpose for which it was taken from us wasn’t really for DVDs.  It’s a very nice project that I would support Senator Bennett wholeheartedly in paying for with his own funds if he really feels so strongly about it.

This fiasco reminds me of the horror of remodeling my house a few years ago.  At the end of the process there had been an increase in the billing of each subcontractor by more than 100% of the original bid (with only two small change orders through it all).  Each contractor viewed this as just a small amount of money on a massive project and figured they could get away with it.  By the time the home was completed it was seven figures over budget and it had completely wiped us out financially.  If our Congressmen are too inept to realize that 535 people repeatedly sending, “very, very small” $5 million checks to companies in their districts for projects that would never be funded without slipping them into important legislation is enough to bankrupt this country, they don’t deserve the privilege of ‘serving’ us anymore.

Even more disturbing is that this is the exact process the Obama administration wants us to believe will reduce costs with regard to health care.  We’re told that only government can cut the waste and inefficiencies of private business in order to save the requisite amount of money needed to pay for the trillions in new spending.  Why, then, is the ever-efficient federal government using $5 million of military operating funds to pay for cute little DVDs?  But I’m sure they’d never play such political games with the health of American men and women (no, only with the lives of servicemen and women?).

Apparently, the way these videos were funded in the past was through private donations from businesses.  That was a lot more work than going directly to a Senator and lobbying for a big, fat–rather a “very, very small”–$5 million check. Businesses and individuals who work for the money they receive tend to be pretty particular about weighing cost v. benefit when spending that money, especially in times of recession.  With no private donations this time around, we can assume that there just weren’t too many out there who felt the benefits of this project were worth the cost.  Government, on the other hand, functions with the mantra of  “easy come, easy go,” and a check for $5 million is a drop in the bucket of the sea of corrupt and politically-connected spending.

Maybe I’m missing something, though; maybe there really is a benefit in this whole system.  It just could be that the advantage Sen. Bennett and others like him see in their defense-spending pork projects has absolutely nothing to do with the troops, and profits those who have absolutely nothing to do with ultimately paying the bills.  Ya think?

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