Tag Archives: Earmarks

Our Tax Dollars At Work, Building A Remote Alaska Airport


The late Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens, famous for the unbuilt “bridge to nowhere,” is reaching out from the grave. To get the remote Alaskan airport ball rolling, he hid $3.5 million into a Senate spending bill in 2007 to help finance an airport to serve Akutan, Alaska, from Akun Island, six miles away.

Fast forward to today. Senator Stevens, even though dead, is still at it. Though only a fraction of the cost of the “bridge to nowhere,” an airport for the village of Akutan, Alaska, is planned. In a very remote location in Alaska, 66 million of your tax dollars are building an airport. The airport is located on Akun Island, an uninhabited island in the Aleutian Island chain between the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea. It is being built to serve the village of Akutan, AK, population: less than 100 permanent residents, that is located six miles away. Current plans call for a $13 million hovercraft to take passengers to and from the airport that is located on Akun Island, not on Akutan Island where the village is located. A British built BHT-130 hovercraft is proposed for transportation between the airport on Akun Island and Akutan. But officials say that the hovercraft solution may not work (see below), so the airport would be accessible only by helicopter.

For information about the airport, please watch this 4:22 video.

The largest beneficiary of the airport will be Trident Seafoods Corp., which operates one of the world’s largest seafood processing plants in Akutan. Trident seafood processing plant employees, about 1000 of them, swell Akutan’s population twice each year. Trident is chipping in $1 million for the airport. Currently, the only way in or out of Akutan via air is by way of a seaplane base that serves the city and Trident employees shuttling to and from work during peak months. Akutan is serviced by 11 weekly flights on World War II-era Grumman Goose amphibious aircraft, operated by Peninsula Air. The Goose is getting harder and more expensive to maintain, says PenAir’s Bryan Carricaburu. BTW, Trident CEO Charles Bundrant has been a big contributor to the Alaskan Republican party.

Akutan is building a $31 million harbor, with most of the money coming from the 2009 federal stimulus package (ARRA). Congress decided to fund the project because Akutan does not have any protected waters for boats to moor.

The hovercraft proposed to serve the Akutan airport is the same BHT-130 model used by the towns of Cold Bay and King Cove, located on an island about 100 miles (160 km) east of Akutan Island. The existing hovercraft was supposed to provide access between King Cove and Cold Bay, which has a paved airstrip, and can provide medical evacuation services. A press release by the Aleutians East Borough, in which Akutan, Cold Bay, and King Cove are located, said, “The commercial hovercraft, owned and operated by the Aleutians East Borough, is temporarily out of service. The Borough winterized (and suspended operation of) the craft last fall due to its unreliability during the winter months, low ridership and huge operating expenses. The Borough hopes to resume service at some point this spring.” But the service resumption did not occur. As of mid-September, 2010, the hovercraft remained out of service.

Said Aleutians East Borough Administrator Sharon Boyette about the hovercraft, ” … It didn’t do as well as we were told it would perform in high winds and rough seas.” Where the manufacturer says that the hovercraft can handle 10 foot seas, Boyette estimated the hovercraft would be hard-pressed to operate in six-foot seas. And if the wind was blowing at more than 30 mph the hovercraft would often be down.

So, even though Senator Ted Stevens was a Republican (RINO), his earmarks waste taxpayer money. And this airport fiasco is (unfortunately) not the only example. But, the airport project is creating jobs, so President Obama should be happy.

 

New York Times Rues the Loss of Earmarks

Raymond Hernandez, in his New York Times post, still doesn’t get it and he’s found that many in Congress are also missing the point of the earmark moritorium.

On Capitol Hill, though, many lawmakers remain opposed to the ban, including Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York, who has long supported overhauling the earmark process and who was among the first lawmakers to place her own requests online.

“It’s shortsighted and misguided,” Ms. Gillibrand said, noting that such money is particularly important these days with local and state governments making cuts.

What’s shortsighted and misguided is the spending that Representatives and Senators have shoved into bills without having to have a direct vote on the initiatives.  If this spending is such a great idea, why can’t it stand that test by a House and Senate vote? Because that kind of spending shouldn’t be done at the federal level and would fail that vote.

Steve Axinn, the president of Lake Oscawana Civic Association, agreed. “Not all earmarks are the same,” he said. “There are some that are good and some that are clearly abusive. It is the responsibility of our elected representatives to know the difference.”

That’s the problem, they are all the same. Every earmark is a simple bribe. The Times article goes on to make the case that earmarks aren’t a large portion of government spending.

For all the debate that earmarks stir, the amount of money directed toward them is relatively small. For the fiscal year that ended in September, earmarks made up $15.9 billion of a $3.5 trillion federal budget, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a government watchdog group.

In “The .5% Lie Progressives Need You To Believe“, it’s obvious that earmarks aren’t dangerous because of the small amount of spending they represent, it’s how earmarks garner support for the larger spending bill by bribing an otherwise fiscally-opposed member of Congress into voting for it.

Earmarks are not a major issue as a pure percentage of federal spending.  Earmarks are an issue because they tend to force a yes vote on larger spending bills even though the larger spending bill may not be in the best interest of the nation.  This is how “no” votes are turned into “yes” votes, the sponsors of the bill give favors to the dissenters in the form of pork barrel spending, pet projects, earmarks, or whatever else you want to call them.

Libraries and museums are a good thing to spend money on, but not Federal funds. If a community wants a museum, it should pay for it from city and state funds.  Why should someone in Detroit fund a library near New York city? How many libraries in other states did Sen. Gillibrand’s constituents help fund with their taxes?  They’ll never know and that’s the point.

By making spending local, it will likely be more tightly controlled. If property, sales and income taxes keep going up to fund local spending, that local populace will cry out – with their votes. Well, now this abusive spending has reached such levels that the entire country has cried out “Quit spending, quit spending, quit spending”. It would appear that Congressional Progressive Democrats like Kirsten Gillibrand just aren’t hearing them.

Some in GOP Still Think Earmarks are OK

There was an election last year.. right?  Republicans got the message from us on spending .. right?  Perhaps not all of them.

The Hill published an article on Wednesday that demonstrated that there are some tone-deaf members of the House and you’ll never believe what committee their on – yup, Appropriations.

Three Republican cardinals on the House Appropriations Committee say they view the ban on earmarks as temporary and that lawmakers should retain the right to direct spending to their districts.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), Frank Wolf from Virginia, and Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) all seemed to believe that the moratorium on earmarks is temporary and that earmarks are a necessary tool to create policy.

Members of Congress should certainly be able to direct the spending of the Federal government.  That’s why we have an appropriations committee and appropriations bills.  Ear marks are unfortunately more-likely to allow frivolous and unnecessary spending as they are typically used to bribe a member into voting for legislation they would otherwise reject.  If the bill contains an earmark for their district, they just might vote yes when for the good of the nation, “no” would have been better.

If a member of Congress wants money from the public coffers, they should sponsor an appropriations bill asking for the money.  They should make it clear who is spending our money and for what.  Hiding pork in other legislation is dishonest and leads to even more dishonest votes.

This is more proof that memory is short in the House of Representatives.  Thankfully for us, so are there terms in office.

The .5% Lie Progressives Need You To Believe

One half of one percent of all government spending is in earmarks.  To quote a famous Congressmen, “You Lie!”, or more correctly, that number hides the real truth of earmark spending.  In a CNSNews article, Chris Johnson demonstrated the math:

The $16.5 billion in earmarks identified by CAGW equaled 0.48 percent of overall federal spending in fiscal 2010 and 1.28 percent of the deficit. The $11.1 billion in earmarks identified by OMB equaled 0.32 percent of overall federal spending and 0.86 percent of the deficit.

So there is corroboration of the pure fact, but it is the veiled truth that is more important.  Earmarks are not a major issue as a pure percentage of federal spending.  Earmarks are an issue because they tend to force a yes vote on larger spending bills even though the larger spending bill may not be in the best interest of the nation.  This is how “no” votes are turned into “yes” votes, the sponsors of the bill give favors to the dissenters in the form of pork barrel spending, pet projects, earmarks, or whatever else you want to call them.

Probably only because he has already lost his seat, Senator Lemieaux makes the point using a colorful addiction analogue:

Outgoing Republican Sen. George LeMieux calls earmarks “the gateway drug to ever-growing spending.”  ..

LeMieux spokesman Ken Lundberg said that while earmarks comprise “maybe 1 percent of federal spending,” they are an “enabler for more government spending.”

The current Omnibus spending bill is an excellent example that may be undone due to voter outrage more than the scruples of our Representatives in the House.  The actual spending bill is gigantic – 1900 pages.  The monstrosity reads like a Christmas wish-list  directly from the progressive left-wing extremist Tides foundation. Here is a some of what is found in H.R. 3288 (House Version of the Omnibus bill):

  • $1 Billion in additional spending for health care reform
  • Renews a federal loan guarantee program for steel companies (Steelworkers union gift)
  • Permits detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be transferred to the U.S. for trial, but not to be released (ACLU gift)
  • Calls for federal worker pay increases averaging 2 percent (SEIU gift – so much for Obama’s deficit reduction panel)
  • $150Million subsidy to airlines (gift to multiple unions)
  • $25Million in the “energy innovation fund”
  • Guarantees for $400Billion in mortgages – why is the government in the business of guaranteeing mortgages?
  • $31Million for minority business development – if the government belongs in this at all, why isn’t this just part of a “small business development” initiative, regardless of race
  • $1.5 Billion for “..expenses necessary for the administration of pardon and clemency petitions and immigration-related activities” – wouldn’t it have been cheaper to stop them at the border?
  • An additional $730Million for the care of illegal immigrant children (that’s more the $2.2 billion for illegal immigrants after they get in the country)
  • $2.2 Billion for Federal Student Loans and grants including:
    • $234Million specifically for Howard University
    • $178Million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities
  • Billions of dollars in foreign aid spending including:
    • $394Million in spending for foreign aid to be spent at the discretion of the President
    • $1.2 Billion for international development (foreign business assistance)
    • $300 Million for foreign clean technology development
    • $75 Million for international climate studies (global warming)
    • $4.7 Million to the inter-American development bank (Latin American and Carribean economic and social assistance)
    • $105 Million for Asian development fund
    • $155 Million for African Development fund
    • $30 Million for international agricultural assistance
    • $1.3 Billion for “assistance to Egypt”
    • $238 Million to assist Lebanon
    • $503 Million for the West Bank and Gaza (Palestine)
  • $1.26 billion for Climate Change and Environment (global warming)

The omnibus spending bill also increases discretionary spending by $17Billion.  It increases overall spending by about 10 percent and does so with the above gifts to the progressive left.  While everyone is focused on the pork in this bill, what about the frivolous, discretionary spending?

This bill has one goal: insure that the extreme left-wing agenda is not exposed to spending cuts in the 2010 budget year.  The progressives need to get this bill passed so that when Congress moves to the right in January, their pet programs are not immediately sacrificed.

Ear marks are the hand in front of Americans faces while the other hand is concealing the real aim of this legislation.  This bill should not be killed simply because it has earmarks in it, it should be killed because it is exactly the kind of unnecessary spending that Americans voted against in November.

The ear marks are not dangerous because they are expensive.  They are dangerous because they are intended to bribe an otherwise fiscally-sound no vote into becoming a cajoled “yes” vote.  That is precisely how irresponsible spending bills such as this one get passed.  If ear marks were banned, bills like this would never stand a chance.  The one half of one percent is the truth in front of the lie.