Internet Articles (2015)
n an impromptu press conference at 3:10 p.m. EST, a few hours before losing the war to ram an earmarks-loaded Omnibus Budget Bill through the US Senate on Thursday, Dec. 16, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-NV] told the news media that members of Congress (both the House and the Senate) "...have a constitutional duty to approve earmarks." In his prepared statement, holding Sen. Robert Byrd's [D-WV] well-worn leather-bound pocket copy of the US Constitution which Byrd bequeathed to him shortly before his death, and, holding it up for the cameras to see, said: "What little Constitution we have doesn't have a lot of information in it, but what is in it runs this country. And, I am convinced that I do not want to give up more power to the White House." When the chips are down, and the White House sides with the Republicans, even a hardcore leftist like Reid will not hesitate to throw the man in the Oval Office under the bus to save his own agendaand make his earmarks look like they are the constitutional conduct of the elected elite when, in fact, they are a prerogative no Senator or House member possesses.
Reid's opening salvo to justify earmarks actually began during his Senate campaign against Sharron Angle when, for the first time, he arrogantly said: "Part of my constitutional duty is to do congressionally-directed spending. I am vigorous in going forth with congressionally-directed spending. I fight for it." More than those who believe in honest government, Reid and every other social progressive who benefit from special interest groups and special interest dollars to get reelected know that earmarks translate into votes on election day, or are paybacks for those votes during that term of Congress. Once again, campaign contributions are bribes. Earmarks are paybacks for those bribes; or in their Congressional districts or States, they are attempting to bribe the voters into casting their votes for them.
After meeting with Senate Democrats, Reid spoke to the media, and with a straight face, said: "I've been one who does believe in our Constitution, separation of powers, and one of the issues that I have fought is to make sure that the White House doesn't continually take from us..." Now, in this instance, Reid was not talking about the Executive Branch taking from the People. Reid was talking about the occupant of the Oval Office taking "power" from the member Senatethe power to reach into your pocket, take your money, and use that money to bribe [a] voters in his State to cast their vote for him when he comes back up for reelection in 2016, and [b] to repay major donors with earmarks by providing them with grants that more than offset the donations they made to put him in a position to feed them pork.. That's how the inside-the-beltway game is played. What would be called a bribe if you or I accepted it, is a legal "campaign contribution" when members of Congress and Senators take it.
Reid continued defending the practice of "earmarks" by saying: "Everyone should understand this earmarks issue is simply that. A way for the Executive Branch of government to steal power we have been granted in our Constitution. We have a Constitutional duty to do congressionally-directed spending. And, I don't want to give up that responsibility." He added, "I can't understand why some...more conservative members here want to give up their power. I don't understand that." Nor, Mr. Reid, do the American people. But what they don't understand is why you think you have a Constitutional right to stick your gnarled fist into the pants pocket of America in order to steal their hard-earned money to benefit your efforts to get reelected. Earmarks were formerly called either "Hardmarks" or "softmarks."
Earmarks are funds designated by members of Congress for projects or programs that actually circumvent the Constitutional provision (Article I, Sec. 8) which requires that not only must taxes be levied in a uniform manner, so must the spending. That is, after all, the primary reason why the first Confederate State, South Carolina, seceded from the Union on Dec. 20, 1860 followed, in early 1861 by Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.
Social progressive revisionists have done everything possible in their rewriting of history to paint the South as the villain in the Civil War by suggesting the South seceded from the Union because an antislavery activist, Abraham Lincoln, won the White House in 1860. Their writings argue that the Civil War was fought over slavery. In point of fact, while Lincoln's election triggered the secessions of eleven States, it was not because he was a civil rights activist. Lincoln was the presidential candidate of the Jacobin Republicans who slowly morphed into what formally became the Republican Party during the Election of 1856 (see footnotebottom of article).
You could say the Civil War was fought over "earmarks"or, as they are properly known: "hardmarks" (expenditures which are mandated by law) and "softmarks" (those which are inserted as favors to members of Congress). Ask any Southern historian and they will adamantly affirm that the Civil War was fought over States rights, not slaveryand America lost that war.
When Sen. Reid maintained, during his impromptu press conference on Dec. 16, 2010 that inserting "earmarks" into legislation with neither a debate nor a vote, is an constitutional obligation of members of Congress, he showed a complete lack of knowledge of, and a lack of respect for, the Constitution of the United Statesnor for the voters who place him in a position of power as servants of the People. I guess, in Reid's institutionalized mind, it's a tough job, but someone has to rob the taxpayers. Speaking about earmarks, Reid said "...the fact that people are saying, 'Why should we vote for this. It's got congressionally directed spending in it. That's our job. That's what we're supposed to do. There are things in this [bill] that will help the State of Nevada. There are things in this that help our country in addition to helping Nevada...I do not want to give up more power to the White House whether it's George Bush or Barack Obama. I am going to fight as hard as I can against...Obama and my Republican colleagues who won't vote for them but love to get them."
Here's the Constitutional reality of "congressionally-directed spending." Constitutionally, the House of Representatives controls the purse strings of the Nation. That's why their term in office is two yearsso the People can throw them out in short order if they overspend. And, they didquickly. Earmarks of any type were not tolerated by the American voters who realized the largess of members of Congress came from their pockets. Because they do, all spending bills are supposed to originate in the House. And, while it is not the practice, because the House constitutionally controls the nation's purse strings and is accountable to the electorate for spending, they should have arbitrary veto rights over all earmarks proffered in every billfrom the Senate and the House. Softmarks are not only unethical, they are illegal. No member of Congress has the power to overrule the other 434 members by having the authority to insert softmarks in a bill without that earmark being debated and receiving an up or down vote. Nor do members of the Senate have that right to waive the vetting of their peers in order to repay major donors with quid pro quos at the expense of the taxpayers. It simply is not a right any member of Congress possesses.
One of the most notable Congressmen booted from office for signing on to a Congressional "hardmark" (an earmark voted on by the House) was a frontiersman-Congressman named Davy Crockett. Crockett was easily elected to the 20th Congress in 1826, and he was just as easily reelected to the 21st Congress in 1828. Campaigning for reelection in 1830, Crockett ran into intense voter backlash from the voters in Tennessee's 9th Congressional District. Stumping for votes Crockett ran into a farmer, Horatio Bunce who told him he was not going to vote for the heroic frontiersman on principle. Crockett asked why. Bunce replied that Congress had no authority to give his taxes to private citizens, adding that "...when Congress stretches its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people."
Crockett had signed on to an earmark to provide $20 thousand to rebuild several townhouses in Georgetown (in Washington, DC) that burned to ground one cold, blustery winter night in 1829. His constituents voted him out of office for exercising Harry Reid's "constitutionally-directed" prerogative to use taxpayer money for an unconstitutional mandate.
Reelected on a promise of financial austerity in 1832, Crockett made a speech on the floor of Congress on March 6, 1835 arguing against the use of pubic money to create a grant for the widow of a distinguished naval officer. The bill should have been a shoo-in. The Speaker of the House was about to put the question to a floor vote when Crockett rose and asked for the floor. Crockett rose to his feet and said: "Mr. Speaker...I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please to charity, but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money."
Speaking of the widow and her deceased husband who was a career officer who died in his bed years after his last conflict in the War of 1812, Crockett remind Congress that "The government did not owe it to the deceased when he was alive; it could not contract [the proposed grant] after he died. I do not wish to be rude," he added, "but I must be plain. Every man in the House knows it is not a debt [Congress owes]. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate money as payment of a debt. We have not a semblance of authority to appropriate it as a charity...Mr. Speaker, I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay. And, if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than this bill asks."
The measure, which was assured of passage before Crockett spoke, was soundly defeated. Did the House members reach into their own pockets to finance a pension for the naval officer's widow? No. Congress is always willing to take gratuities from your pocket, but not their own.
Congressionally-directed spending (i.e., earmarks) was a 20th century flimflam. When lawyers for the FDR New Deal Congress fabricated the "commerce clause" from a one-word phrase (the word "commerce") within the preamble of the Constitution, they eagerly grasped the declaratory one-word phrase as an "implied power" that would drain the life out of the 10th Amendment. The Constitution of the United States specifically delegates what spending power the House of Representatives possesses. They are enumerated. There are no broad grants of power in the preamble of the Constitution. In fact, there is no power whatsoever in the preamble. It is merely a statement that outlines the grants of power enumerated elsewhere. The House of Representatives is charged with the responsibility of raising the funds and paying for the construction and maintenance of Post Offices and postal roads, creating a patent office and maintaining patents on inventions and copyrights on books and other forms of art. The central government was also charged with the responsibility of raising and financing an army and a navy. With that, the central government was also charged, under Article 9, Sec. 4, with the obligation to protect our national borders from invasion. Congress also has the responsibility under Article 1, Sec. 8 to finance the policing of the high seas to protect our coastline.
Sadly, as the red stain of Marxism spread across the globe as the world entered the 20th century, the people of the United States found themselves mesmerized by social progressives who promised voters a slice of Utopia that someone elsethe "rich"would pay for. Amending the Constitution by eraser to legislatively transition America from a republic to a socialist democracy controlled not by the People but an unelected bureaucracy fell first on Thomas Woodrow Wilson in 1912. To manipulate the minds of the voting public in 1912, the princes of industry and the barons of banking bought controlling interest in the top 25 newspapers in the country. They discovered, when they promoted the Bank Panic of 1906 that they could control public opinion through the media. In 1912 they proved they could manipulate national elections and, with the use of third party candidates as spoilers to drain votes from the "designated losers," they could elect whomever they wanted into the Oval Office.
Under Wilson, the Republic died. A constitutional democracy was born in its place with the fraudulent ratification of the 17th Amendment which removed the States from the equation of power at the federal level. When the States lost the power to elect their members of the United States Senate, they lost their power to control the legislative agenda as well. Suddenly the only difference between a Congressman and a Senator was that a Senator's term of office was three times that of a Congressman.
Under Franklin Delano Roosevelt the States and the People lost the last vestige of "people power." Their voice was suddenly drown out by an unelected bureaucracy that has become the dominant role as the invisible government with no one person responsible, or blamable, for the regulations emanating from the bureaucracy. Over the last seven decades the federal bureaucracy has become the engine of State. The bureaucracy has two bosses: the White House and Congress. Permanently squeezed out of the mix were the States.
Interestingly, during in his Dec. 16th press conference, Reid correctly noted that the Obama Administration, much like the Administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945), is determined to further erase the separation of powers by pulling more power from Congress and into the Oval Office. While Reid spoke only about the annual Christmas gift to the constituents back home for their votes, and the grants to the wealthy donors who guaranteed the reelection of the members of Congress they supported with their checkbooks, the Executive Branch of government violates the separation of power daily by issuing Executive Orders with have the impact of law even though the Executive Branch lacks the authority to legislate. So, for that matter does the Judicial Branch which couples unrelated judicial decisions and completely unrelated laws to recast existing law into "new law" by legislating from the bench. However, in Reid's congressionally-directed synopsis, his only concern was his continued ability to reward constituents and donors for keeping him "in power." And, his ability to play Santa Claus with taxpayer dollars to reward those who rewarded him was the only reality he was concerned about in that press conference.
The $1.2 trillion 2011 budget bill contained over 6,600 individual spending requests (soft earmarks that are simply added to the bill without any votes or discussions) totaling $8 billion. Among them were grants of $18 million for two nonprofit groups associated with now deceased Congressman John Murtha [D-PA] and Sen. Edward Kennedy [D-MA]. Also included was a new school in Iowa named after Sen. Tom Harkin [D-IA] and $349 thousand for a waste management system for a pig farm in North Carolina. And, there was $650 thousand for a genetic technology center for the University of Kentucky. That earmark was written up by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell [R-KY]who led the fight in the Senate to kill the measure because of the earmarks. The single largest soft earmark was inserted into the budget bill by Sen. Patty Murray [D-WA]. Murray's Christmas gift to the constituents who reelected her in 2010 is $29 million for a new Interstate bridge over the Columbia River. She asked for a total of $85 million in various projects which she said, "...will help her State." I should hope to kiss a donkey it would. Her requests, like the $38 million asked for by retiring Sen. Chris Bond [R-MO], or the $19 million asked for by Reid, or the $11 million requested by Sen. Barbara Boxer, were arbitrarily inserted into the budget bill without any debate on the merits of the requestsand exactly who will be the recipients of the taxpayers' largess. Not the end-beneficiary (i.e., the "taxpayers"), but the princes of industry and the barons of banking and business who stand to directly "pocket profit" from the earmarks.
It's nice to say "...my State needs it," or "...it's for the taxpayers who are entitled to get something back from the taxes they pay." Covert grants that do not have to be scrutinized imply that some major campaign donor will profit from the construction of the new school, or the new bridge, or the new road. Or the waste treatment center on the pig farm. In reality, earmarks are not only allowed by the Party in control, they are encouraged since once a Congressman or Senator places an earmark in a bill, they are committing themselves to vote for passage to protect their special interest baggage which they, by themselves, attached to the legislation.
Among the 6,600 earmarks was a water taxi service to a delapitated beach town in Connecticut. The cost to taxpayers? Nineteen million dollars. Or, $1.5 million to spruce up the area around Indian casinos in economically devastated Detroit, Michigan. What makes the bicycle racks and shrubbery dotting the landscape for a block around the casinos is a congressional prohibition against using taxpayer funds to benefit casinos. Or, $3 million for new bike racks in Georgetown, the most affluent suburb in the DC Metro area. Or, an urban "art trail" for $3.8 million in Rochester, NY. Or the biggest boondoogle in the pork-laden in the $217 billion of wasteful spending$578 thousand (I know, as far as political quid pro quos go, it's chicken feed) to fight homelessness in Union, NY. Sounds laudable, except no one asked for the money because there is no homeless problem in Union, New York. The question is, if the city didn't ask for the funds, who did? And, who would have been the recipient of the windfall had the 2010 Omnibus budget bill been enacted?
When the 2011 Omnibus Budget Bill flamed out, both of Alabama's GOP US Senators, Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby left $217 million in earmarks on the table. Sessions, who lobbied hard against passage of the budget bill had 31 earmark requests worth $60.3 in the bill. Shelby, a veteran of the Senate Appropriations Committee who also heeded the anger of the Tea Party, voted against the $155.3 million in earmarks he had in the bill. So, Reid was correct in his statement that Republicans who were as heavily vested in earmarks as the Democrats who controlled both Houses, were going to win this fight which ever way it ended. If the $1.2 trillion budget bill was shot down, the voters would be happy. They would not only blame the Democrats, they would view the Republicans who voted the bill down as heroeseven if the "heroes" had as much pork in the pie as the Democrats. If, on the other hand, the GOP attempt to spike the budget bill failed, they would still be viewed by the voters as good guys who simply lacked the clout on the floor to stymie the Obama-Reid-Pelosi budget bill. In addition, in a win-win situation, the barons of banking and business who would pocket the profits from the earmarks, would consider their campaign contributions to the members of Congress they supported as validated by the quid pro quo.
Among the other Christmas quid pro quos to the special interest groups which helped elect them, was an earmark to provide $450 million to keep an alternate engine program for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aliveeven though the Department of Defense neither asked for money nor wanted it. Neither the Senate Armed Services Committee nor the Senate Appropriations Committee included any measure for the money because it was voted down. Yet, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin [D-MI] and Sen. Daniel Inouye [D-HI], the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, received campaign contributions from General Electric's annual pledge of around a million dollars to those Congressmen and Senators who regularly vote to keep their alternate engine for the F-35 alive each year.
The media has observed that Congress has chosen to fund GE's war against rival Pratt & Whitney. In point of fact, Congress and both the Bush-43 and Obama White Houses have made it clear there is no need for an alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Yet whenever Congress refused to refinance the F126, Levin and Inouye simply wrote earmarks to provide GE with $450 million in taxpayer money per year to continue the development of the "engine to no where." According to Government Executive.com, despite opposition from both the Bush-43 and Obama administrations, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees and the Pentagon, none of whom want the F136, lawmakers have continued funding the engine for years. The "lawmakers" are those indebted to GE for campaign contributions. (The alternate F-35 engine was ordered by Congress in 1996, and every year until 2007, the Senate double-appropriated the development of the F-35. In 2008, even though the Pentagon rejected the GE-Rolls Royce engine, the Senate reinstated its funding through earmarks. Levin and Inouye have both argued that it would not be prudent to have all of its strike fighters powered by a single type of engine, since a problem with that engine could force the grounding of the entire F-35 fleet. The only problem with that theory is that to make scheduled maintenance easy, Congress mandated that all of the parts in both engines had to be interchangeable. So, it would seem that a flaw or glitch in some part in the F135 would trigger the same problem in the F136.
What is most interesting about the continuing competition between Pratt & Whitney and General Electric (whose engine is actually built by Rolls Royce) is that, on Feb. 6, 2006 the Defense Department arbitrarily excluded the GE engine from consideration in favor of the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine Lockheed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter engine. That notice ended any interest the government had in GE's engineor, should have. GE's fortune changed in Nov. 2006. The Democrats regained control of the US Senate and Carl Levin, who had been the ranking Democrat in the Senate Armed Services Committee was now the committee Chairman. Yet, not even that got GE reinstated. Levin, however, was able to reinstate GE's testing. Two years after the US Air Force rejected GE's Rolls Royce F136 engine, GE successfully completed its high-altitude afterburner testing program at the USAF Arnold Engineering Development Center. Now the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee instead of just the ranking Democrat, Levin leveraged the Dept. of Defense to reconsider GE's F136 engine. Funding for the F136 engine that the USAF still had no interest in, and still felt the F136 engine still did not stack up to Pratt & Whitney's F135 engine, was reinstated in 2009 due to leverage by Levin. Levin and Inouye argued that competition between the two engine makers will improve whichever engine is ultimately used, and competition, they insisted, would reduce the cost of the engine ultimately used.
Government Executive.com noted that neither the Senate Armed Services Committee's fiscal 2011 defense authorization bill nor the Senate version of the defense spending bill included the renewal of funding for the F136 engine. When the USAF refused to include the F136 experiment engine in its 2010 budget as a waste of taxpayer money, Levin simply earmarked $450 million to fund it without Congressional approval. This is the reality of earmarking. Regardless of what it looks like at first blush, earmarks are always quid pro quos for donor constituentseven the earmarks that appear to be selfless acts to benefit the citizens of the State or congressional district of the lawmaker using your tax dollars to repay wealthy donors even when it appears the earmark is designed only to benefit the voters at home. Even simple things are complicated. That's one really good example why campaign donations need to not only be outlawed...they need to criminalized.
So, here's the reality. "Yes, Virginia; there is a Santa Claus." In the case of the $1.2 trillion 2011 Omibus Budget Bill , Santa Claus was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who encouraged his elf minions in both parties to load the bill with their best Christmas wishes for donors since that's what guarantees those lawmakers, in both parties, will vote for the measure. So...yes, there is a Santa Claus. And, as I said, his name is Harry Reid even when his minions get the glory for the quid pro quo. It appears that the Rolls Royce Liftsystem will be used in the F-35B. And what do the American people get out of the deal? They get some insight into how and why earmarks are used. And, of course, they get honest lawmakers like Reid, Levin and Inouye.
(Footnote: The transition into what became the Republican Party began with the death of the Federalist, Mason, Anti-Mason, Whig and Free Soil Parties. Likeminded radical political thinkers, most from wealthy families with bloodlines that touched the royal families of Europe, gravitated into what was identified by John Hay as a radical organization known as the "Jacobin Club." Hay was Lincoln's private secretary and biographer. He was appointed Ambassador to Great Britain by Republican President William McKinley in 1897.
(Lincoln won the Election of 1860 with a 39.8% mandate to governbut only in the Union North. While he may have received a scattered vote here and there in the South, no Southerners in any appreciable numbers voted for him, making Abraham Lincoln the only president elected in only one geographic area of the United States. But, that was not the reason the South seceded. What actually triggered the secession of South Carolina a month after Lincoln's victory was Congress' refusal to take into consideration the slaves (each counted as 3/5ths of a person) in allocating the expenditure of tax money. The South paid about 40% of the taxes, yet over 75% of the tax dollars paid into the US Treasury were spent in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. When South Carolina threatened to secede from the Union, James Buchanan's administration told them that one of the freedoms they surrendered when they signed the covenant treaty called the US Constitution, was the right to secede. Being told they could not secede from the Union contributed to the secession of the remaining Confederate States.)