The U.S. loves to pat itself on the back with Christmas gifts it can't afford, but gets them anyway. How do you ask? Earmarks. These are those wonderful amendments attached to Bills before Congress. And here are just some of my favorites.
You want the latest DVD player that's compatible with the latest printer, fax and photocopier, perhaps one of those all in one units that save space. What does a Congressman want? According to CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkinson:
Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey receives thousands from defense contractor Honeywell. He gives Honeywell a $2 million earmark to develop specialized ink. Honeywell's lobby firm, Winning Strategies, happens to be managed by the Congressman's former chief-of-staff.
So I decided to go view the earmarks implemented in bills all of this year. The Office of Management and Budget has an entire website section dedicated to it. And boy oh boy... is it ever full. In 2005 alone, Congress laid out over 16 Billion dollars of 'if you want your Bill passed, I want this for my state, district or town.' It's no better in 2009.
You want the fastest internet speed and for good measure, Net Neutrality. Congress decided to add $6 Billion dollars to the defense budget in order to get it passed. What did they buy for themselves that didn't go towards increased soldiers pay, better housing, and costs to deploy assets around the world you ask?
Congressman Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii awarded Pacific Biodiesel a $3.5 million earmark to try to grow fuel for the Army in Hawaii. It turns out the founder of Pacific Biodiesel is a co-chair of the Congressman's gubernatorial campaign.
But here's the best one I found. You want a new E-Book reader perhaps, they are after all, a pretty cool device and what a great way to read thousands books! Well the government loves to screw up and this just takes the cake... in the Washington Times ...
When he earmarked $100,000 in taxpayer spending to go to Jamestown's library, Rep. James E. Clyburn meant for it to go to the library in Jamestown, S.C., which is in his district.
But in the bustle to write and pass the $1.1 trillion catchall spending bill, Congress ended up designating the money for Jamestown, Calif. - 2,700 miles away and a town that doesn't even have a library.
"That figures for government, doesn't it," said Chris Pipkin, who runs the one-room library in Jamestown, S.C., and earlier this year requested $50,000, not the $100,000 that Congress designated, to buy new computers and build shelves to hold the books strewn across the room.
Nice presents aren't they...