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Obama's earmarks - Proper or Pork?

In 2006, according to an Associated Press report, Senator Obama inserted $400,000 for an unrelated project into an emergency bill for the Iraq war and hurricane relief. Do you want to know more, or will you share McCain's new anti-earmark stand? Earmarks can be abused, yet they can expedite passage of matters needing little or no debate, too.

Senator Barack H. ObamaObama has pledged to finish construction of an electronic barrier in Chicago to keep the carp from invading Lake Michigan from the Illinois River. That $400,000 earmark from 2006 was targeted for the barrier project. Great Lakes fishing is a $4 billion fishing industry; do you prefer carp to salmon?

I won’t suggest all earmark funding supports projects intended to protect the environment and/or preserve regional jobs and industries; clearly the potential for abuse exists, and doubtless the mechanism is exploited for pork-barrel projects. To my way of thinking, even the “$3 million overhead projector” McCain keeps hammering away at in debates and stump speeches was a reasonable use of the technique: do we really need Congress to hold extended debate on a stand-alone bill about the value of supporting the educational goals of Adler Planetarium in Chicago?

How different are McCain and Bush?

Apart from the economic and ecologic impact of the project in question, clean water is a precious resource, essential in and of itself.

During 2004 George Bush established an inter-agency task force to develop the “Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy.” He hasn't funded it much, the priorities of the Bush administration have not exactly matched the campaign promises, and they certainly haven't focused on research outside the Defense Department. Additional money was included in a 2007 package for water projects ultimately enacted over President George Bush’s veto. Senator McCain sided with the president on that vote as he has on some 90% or so of the opportunities he's had, from Wall Street deregulation to trickle-down tax theories. Obama supported the veto-override.

But back to earmarks:

McCain has decided to take a public stand against earmarks, causing the public to equate them with pork-barrel abuses. It's great for sound-bites on the evening news, but is it tantamount to throwing out the baby with the bathwater?

Introduced to the U.S. in the 1970s to control algae in catfish farms in the South, bighead and silver carp have spread due to flooding into the Mississippi River. They're taking over parts of the Illinois River. Barack Obama used an earmark to try to control this threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem, to protect the people, jobs, and industries that are at risk. Isn't that a textbook example of what a U.S. Senator is supposed to do?

The focus on earmarks distracts both the media and the voters from more significant problems, and Obama was responsible not to rise to the bait when McCain floated the "overhead projector" during the 2008 Presidential debates. The economy is a much more pressing issue, but McCain doesn't want to have to explain how he's going to ramp up some new federal department to handle the 11 million mortgages he proposes to evaluate and take over.

John McCain, keynote speaker, ACORN 2006I admit, while I'm not surprised when a Republican claims a Democratic challenger will raise taxes, I don't understand McCain's real priorities, why he's suddenly turned on his old companions at ACORN, or why his voting seems so closely aligned with the current administration despite his mavericky protests to the contrary. If you'd like to read more about the research into and problems of invasive species in the Great Lakes watershed, or contribute to a discussion about earmarks, check the longer article that was the stimulus for this post.

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