February 11, 2010

Is the gridlock finally breaking loose in DC?

Posted in GOP, government pork spending, Obama administration tagged , , , at 10:42 pm by realitytax

President Obama’s statement following action by the Senate to confirm twenty-seven nominees:

“Today, the United States Senate confirmed 27 of my high-level nominees, many of whom had been awaiting a vote for months.At the beginning of the week, a staggering 63 nominees had been stalled in the Senate because one or more senators placed a hold on their nomination. In most cases, these holds have had nothing to do with the nominee’s qualifications or even political views, and these nominees have already received broad, bipartisan support in the committee process.

Instead, many holds were motivated by a desire to leverage projects for a Senator’s state or simply to frustrate progress. It is precisely these kinds of tactics that enrage the American people.

And so on Tuesday, I told Senator McConnell that if Republican senators did not release these holds, I would exercise my authority to fill critically-needed positions in the federal government temporarily through the use of recess appointments. This is a rare but not unprecedented step that many other presidents have taken. Since that meeting, I am gratified that Republican senators have responded by releasing many of these holds and allowing 29 nominees to receive a vote in the Senate.

While this is a good first step, there are still dozens of nominees on hold who deserve a similar vote, and I will be looking for action from the Senate when it returns from recess. If they do not act, I reserve the right to use my recess appointment authority in the future.”

It’s amazing to many to realize that it was one Senator, Alabama’s Richard Shelby, on a quest for a Richard "earmark" Shelby embarassed the GOP massive earmark for his home state, that was able to suspend all progress in filling key leadership roles. It’s no wonder some in the GOP think government can’t be effective, if their own party can’t be relied on to let so many agencies have leaders — Americans were stunned to learn that the objections weren’t about qualifications, but rather a partisan ploy that amounted to demanding a kick-back for Alabama.

There’s nothing inherently wrong about earmarks – they allow for quick resolutions to funding decisions that don’t require much, if any, debate. They can be used to replace a fallen bridge, or abused to fund a pork-barrel project that benefits a key constituent or city… but Shelby’s audacity has backfired, and he’s walking back from his stand after embarrassing his party — claiming after the fact that it was just to get attention.

Well, Senator, you’ve drawn attention, your bluff has been called, and people around the country are starting to call your Grand Old Party the Republi-can’ts.

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September 29, 2009

How the U.S. government spends your money

Posted in government pork spending, Obama administration, taxes tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 5:21 pm by realitytax

Billions of tax dollars are going for a US-Mexico border fence, but is it doing any good?  Well, if you read the Christian Science Monitor article by Daniel Wood you’ll have more questions than answers.

In 2006 DHS awarded a “virtual fence” contract to Boeing for a stretch of the border in Arizona as part of President Bush’s “Secure Border Initiative.” The budget grew to nearly $1 billion just two years later. So far, no virtual fence; just a very real budget. DHS recently decided to extend its contract with Boeing for another year.

Several sites now report that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently predicted that $6.5 billion will be needed to maintain the rest of the actual, though still incomplete, multi-billion dollar non-virtual fence over the next 20 years, addding:

“So far, it has been breached 3,363 times, requiring $1,300 for the average repair.”

Just so you don’t have to reach for your calculator, the math works out like this:

3,363 breaches x $1300 = $ 4,371,9000

But the kicker is there’s no way to prove if it’s actually making any real difference – well, beyond fattening the wallets of the folks awarded the contracts and costing tax-payers money, of course. So, we’ve spent about $2.5 billion so far on construction, we’re seeing several new breaches each day (on average), and CSM interviewed one woman, Dawn Garner, who says that 40 illegal immigrants a day cross her small ranch.

Sound bad? Don’t answer yet.

Ronald Reagan famously urged Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. There was a lesson there we’ve somehow forgotten about what the effects and effectiveness of walls really are.

Yasha Levine, writing at The Exiled, reports he’s interviewed a Border Patrol agent who asserts that it’s not just breaches – in some cases ramps are deployed on both sides and smuggler’s caravans drive right over!  Levine has more bad news:

There is one thing we can be sure of:

the massive steel pylons have been a boon for Mexican scrap metal entrepreneurs, who are able to supplement their incomes by dragging off whole sections of the fence right under the nose of our beefed up Border Patrol.

And those we capture trying to make the crossing? We spend a bit of money to detain them, a bit to process them, a bit to send them back home again, and – you guessed it – start the cycle over. Because if there’s one other thing we can be sure of:

No matter which country they’re a citizen of, the folks who prefer the USA to Mexico aren’t likely to change their minds.

But DHS, born under former GOP President George Bush, sees no reason to change course, or deny money to Boeing or the other contractors.  They’ve got a mandate for, “more effective use of personnel and technology” and “physical infrastructure enhancements to prevent unlawful border entry,” and so spend they will. But are we stopping the drugs and other smuggling? Honestly, nobody knows.

It’s past time to think about our priorities, particularly our spending/funding priorities and the role of the federal government.  It grew larger than ever over the early part of the 21st Century, but failed to address the needs of our nation.

Instead politicians awarded lucrative contracts as political favors. It’s no wonder the trust for Congress has plummeted – the scrutiny has them scurrying for cover, and some of them are talking out of both sides of their mouths.