- The Washington Times - Monday, March 2, 2009


Nine thousand pork barrel earmarks were buried in the $410 billion omnibus budget that passed the House last week - giving bureaucrats 9 percent more money to spend in the remainder of this fiscal year.

President Obama told Congress the day before it passed that he was happy it didn’t contain any earmarks, eliciting gales of laughter from the Republican side of the chamber who knew better.

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Earmarks like $22 million for an addition to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, money for tattoo removal and something called “wood utilization.” The latter item will cost taxpayers $4.8 million, compared to $4.5 million last year. These pork projects appear in the budget year after year, inching higher every year, deficit or no deficit, recession or no recession.

Tom Schatz, the waste watch warrior at Citizens Against Government, tells me taxpayers have been bilked out of $95 billion since 1985 to research new wood technologies for the furniture companies in 11 states. This begs the question, why shouldn’t furniture companies pay for their own research? But that’s the whole point of pork - to get ordinary taxpayers to shell out money so others can keep their own.

Barack Obama will sign this bill with nary a peep about billions being spent on the subprime spending projects stuffed into this bill by powerful, well-heeled special interests who live by this code: “Why pay for anything when you can reach into federal till and let the taxpayers foot the bill?”

Mr. Obama lives by the same code. The mortgage bailout plan he and his advisers unveiled a week ago will subsidize renegotiated and redesigned mortgages to save the owners the indignity of going into foreclosure after buying a home they couldn’t afford in the first place.

Who is to pay this subsidy? The beleaguered taxpayers who live within their means. CNBC’s Chicago Board of Trade analyst Rick Santelli said Mr. Obama’s plan was “rewarding bad behavior.” By my count, the administration last month already put the government - i.e., the taxpayers - deeper into hock to the tune of $2.5 trillion over and above what we already owed.

But, wait, it gets worse. Contrary to Mr. Obama’s budget-cutting rhetoric at last week’s White House budget conference, the president is proposing a laundry list of new spending as far as the eye can see: for national health insurance, energy research and development, increased aid to education, more social welfare spending and dozens of other costly initiatives.

If there’s a problem on this Earth, Mr. Obama has a spending plan to deal with it, and it is going to cost us more money, lots of it, for today’s taxpayers and for generations of taxpayers to come.

All this while the economy is flat on its back gasping for breath, families struggle to make ends meet, and tax revenues have plummeted - driving up the deficit and sending the Treasury into the bond markets to borrow trillions of dollars that will make the federal debt under President Bush look frugal by comparison.

Mr. Obama has already signaled how he intends to pay for his four-year spending spree. He will borrow unprecedented amounts from the capital markets, he will raise taxes on people, investors and anything else that still shows signs of life in this bleak economic environment. Both will seriously undermine any recovery in our economy.

Cash-strapped businesses desperately in need of money will find themselves competing in capital markets with the U.S. Treasury, which will crowd out private investment. This will slow economic growth in future years, according an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

He intends to let two of Mr. Bush’s across-the-board tax cuts expire at the end of 2010. That means the top two income tax rates will automatically increase to a new high of 40 percent when state taxes are included. Mr. Obama said this will tax the rich who do not pay their fair share. In fact, taxpayers in the top 10 percent not only pay most of all federal income taxes, their share of the tax revenue pie has been growing.

But Mr. Obama’s tax increases do not just hit individuals. They will hit millions of small, unincorporated, often family-owned businesses that pay their taxes through the personal income tax system just like everyone else. Hitting them with a 40 percent rate will kill job creation because this sector accounts for a huge share of the jobs in this country.

Actually, recent policy decisions by the administration have already been killing jobs left and right. The protectionist “buy American” mandates in the $800 billion spending stimulus bill he just signed have already triggered reprisals from trading partners at a time when U.S. exports are collapsing.

Then came the decision to stop new oil exploration and drilling in the Gulf, along with new restrictions on existing drilling, that instantly killed any new jobs that would have been created in a critical industry. Look for oil prices to rise accordingly.

This is the change Barack Obama was talking about.

Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent of The Washington Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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