N.Y. Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer took to the floor on Tuesday to sneer at public outrage over the trillion-dollar porkulus. "The American people really don't care," he said, about those "little tiny, yes, porky amendments." He punctuated his derision by pinching his pointer finger and thumb together. Only the "chattering classes" worry about such trivial matters, Schumer scoffed.
Well, we are all "chattering classes" now. Congressional phones and fax lines have been ringing off the hooks all week with complaints from angry constituents across the country. And just two days after Schumer declared that no one cares, the taxpayer group Americans for Prosperity delivered 400,000 petitions to the Senate protesting the behemoth bill. Those petitions were signed before the latest details of the House-Senate conference report negotiations had been disclosed and before any final legislative text had been made available to the general public.
If the stimulus plan were a Thanksgiving dinner entree, it would be a Turbaconducken the heart attack-inducing dish of roasted chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey, all wrapped in endless slabs of bacon. But according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's fantasyland "fact sheet" released early Thursday afternoon, "there are no earmarks or pet projects" in the final package.
Trust her no further than you could throw a pot-bellied pig. Despite the self-delusional declarations of Pelosi and President Obama that no pet projects exist, Hill staffers spilled the beans on several new set-asides tacked onto the bill.
Thanks to Michigan's Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, General Motors will receive a special tax break worth an estimated $7 billion to cover liabilities incurred when it accepted its $13.4 billion bailout from the Bush administration. The failing automaker has lined up for an addition $4 billion in bailout funds at which time they'll no doubt ask for another mega-tax liability waiver. The moochers' cycle never ends.
Then there's Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's Railway to Sin City. Appointing yourself a Senate conferee has its perks. Roughly $8 billion in perks.
Reid, you see, needs to stimulate his re-election bid, so he haggled with President Obama to tuck in a teeny, tiny, yes, porky amendment for high-speed rail lines. Reid has his eyes and paws on a proposed Los Angeles-to-Las Vegas magnetic levitation train. He has already sunk $45 million in previous earmarks into his, yes, pet project. Wasn't it earlier this week that Obama was lecturing companies not to travel to Las Vegas on the taxpayers' dime?
But I digress. Along with these not-earmarks, not-pet projects, there's $2 billion for impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's pet FutureGen near-zero emissions power plant project, $300 million for souped-up "green" golf carts for government workers, $30 million for "smart appliances" and $65 million for digital TV coupons. According to Hill Republicans, money for basic highways and bridges was cut by $1 billion from the House-passed level, but:
$9 billion for school construction was added back in (originally cut by the Nelson-Collins "compromise");
$5 billion was added to the state fiscal stabilization fund (originally cut by Nelson-Collins), making it a grand total of $53.6 billion;
$1 billion was added back for Prevention & Wellness Programs, including STD education; and
$2 billion for neighborhood stabilization programs.
As I've reported previously, that "neighborhood stabilization" slush fund money will end up in the pockets of left-wing shakedown artists such as ACORN and the Massachusetts-based Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA), led by self-proclaimed "bank terrorist" Bruce Marks. There's an additional $3.25 billion in HUD grants and Community Development Block Grants in the bill that will also inevitably find its way into the coffers of these housing-entitlement lobbying groups.
Another egregious not-earmark earmark that survived untouched: $2 billion for the National Parks Service championed by House Democratic conferee and Appropriations Chairman Rep. David Obey. A report by the GOP minority on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee revealed that Obey's son, Craig, lobbied the panel and advocated for the stimulus plan on behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association.
All told and safely assuming the major spending provisions become permanently enshrined the final price tag of this government hogzilla of all hogzillas over the next 10 years will be a whopping $3.27 trillion with a capital "T."
Not, ahem, that you care.