Friday, March 14, 2008

Earmarks 2008

Barack Obama has made public his requests for funding of earmarks for Fiscal Year 2008. The list is on his website and includes 108 requests, totaling $349.7 Million of our money.

About 40 of the requests deal with infrastructure; roads, bridges, water or sewer systems and the like. For the most part I am supportive of that type of government spending; although some of them look to me like they should be funded at the local level or, if local funding is not available, dropped.

A dozen or so deal with education, another effort which I believe to be a praiseworthy effort on the part of federal government. It’s a little difficult to tell what the nature is of the education being supported, so some of them may actually be pork in disguise.

Quite a few are research and development, something that I believe quite strongly the government should stay the hell out of. Much of the R&D supported by the government is unadulterated pork, and valid research is corrupted by government money far more than it is supported.

Senators Clinton and McCain are somewhat less transparent, as I cannot find a listing of their FY2008 earmark requests. So, while I am somewhat less than thrilled with the nature of some of Senator Obama’s earmark requests, I admire his openness.

The following are my thoughts on some of Senator Obama's earmark requests. The title is in bold, followed by the description (or part of it), with my comments in italics.

Adler Planetarium, to support replacement of its projector and related equipment, $3,000,000

One of its most popular attractions and teaching tools at the Adler Planetarium is the Sky Theater. The projection equipment in this theater is 40 years old, and is no longer supported with parts or service by the manufacturer. It has begun to fail, leaving the theater dark and groups of school students and other interested museum-goers without this very valuable and exciting learning experience.

San Diego has so much debt that we cannot repair the potholes in our streets. Our planetarium was just upgraded using local bond money. No federal funds were provided.

American Red Cross of Illinois, for emergency preparedness, $5,000,000

Funding will assist in providing 29 chapters and 3 blood service regions of the American Red Cross with the resources to be able to deliver mass care services in a timely matter in the event of a large-scale disaster. Funding will be used for equipment such as backup generators…

In the wildfires of last year the American Red Cross provided services to San Diego County based on donations received from local citizens. Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego did admirable service as an evacuation center, and the only federal aid received was the provision of some cots. National Guard soldiers were on duty but, their name notwithstanding, they are provided by the state of California.

American Theater Company, for the construction of a new facility in Logan Square, $200,000

In the heart of Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood, American Theater Company (ATC) will build an 11,000 square foot theater complex using green construction standards that will provide a state-of-the-art experience for its artists and patrons.

Why should my tax dollars be used to build a theater in Chicago? And, I strongly suspect, a theater which will operate on a for-profit basis.

Field Museum, for roof repair and rainwater diversion, $4,900,000
Field Museum, to support the expansion of the Halls of the Americas, $1,000,000


The Field Museum encompasses one million square feet under a single roof spanning 5.25 acres protecting precious collections and welcoming millions of visitors…

San Diego has an area of buildings in Balboa Park built for the World Exposition in 1910. These are astonishing works of art and Spanish architecture, and they house museums and botanical gardens of enormous value. They are being restored slowly, because the local money that is being used to do so is in short supply.

Lewis University Airport in Romeoville, for the extension of its primary runway, $3,420,000

The runway extension is to allow existing based and visiting corporate aircraft to safely and efficiently operate at Will County's Airport.

Really? Senator Obama wants to use my tax dollars to facilitate the convenience of “visiting corporate aircraft” in Illinois?

Morrison, IL, for construction of a railroad overpass, $3,812,000
Rochelle, IL, for phase two of the Jack Dame Road/Union Pacific Railroad Overpass, $1,000,000


I’m going to skip the justification for this one; they are probably needed. Railroads, however, are operating very profitably today and overpasses should be built by the railroads.

Southern Illinois University, for the National Corn to Ethanol Research Center, $2,000,000

The National Corn to Ethanol research facility located in the research Park of Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, is the only full-scale corn to ethanol testing facility in the nation.

Like we don’t already know how to distill alcohol from corn. An entire stock car racing industry devolved from that enterprise more than seventy years ago.    Not to mention hundreds of chapters of AA.

1 comment:

bruce said...

There's an old saying, I think it goes "All politics is local". I tend to agree especially fiscally. Local programs and venues used by local residents should be taken care of by local dollars. One exception would be federal facilities or nationally historic landmarks. I suppose federal highways would fall under that.

Education is largely local, so my feeling is that even if the feds give money, the locales ought to have the say is how it's spent. A national policy does not fit everyone. Even state-wide rules don't always fit local regions & cities. Yes, I suppose the feds can have rules like no racial & ethnic discrimination, but micromanaging is a waste of time and energy at the fed level.

Anything that generates (local) revenue should be off limits unless there is a ironclad process that gives the revenue back to the government. Not that I believe this is possible, of course.

Railroads profitable, Amtrak is not.. I see a problem here. Anyway, does railroad bridges come in the same category as street bridges? And how would you separate the two? Nice idea, though.

Corn to ethanol? haha, love it. Sorry Mr Obama, make the people who buy the ethanol pay for it, Thats a business expense. As is most research & development anyway.

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