Wednesday, August 09, 2006

CQ: Pork-Warning Flags Up!

The lack of progress on appropriations in Congress before the summer break portends a tough fall for porkbusters. The Senate will have to combine appropriations into a single omnibus bill, which will invite amendments and earmarks galore:

The Senate left for summer recess after completing one of 12 spending bills needed to keep government agencies operating next year, all but assuring the need for an omnibus package, which are typically laden with pet projects never discussed or voted on.

"When you have senators ... who have traditionally used these bills to bring home more than their fair share of the bacon -- and are used to doing that -- without some action by the Senate leadership, this omnibus is sure to be loaded," said Tom Schatz, executive director of Citizens Against Government Waste, a watchdog group.

The pork equation is well known on omnibus bills. The more funding that gets tied together, the more leverage it produces for passage. Because the government has to get this passed quiuckly in order to continue funding its operations, the legislature doesn't have the time to pick off the amendments and earmarks before bringing it to a vote, and at any rate that task would be gargantuan in an omnibus bill. Realizing this, porksters lard up the bill with as many earmarks as they can, knowing they will get no better opportunity for success.

What makes this of particular concern, aside from the usual?

Trying to assess the situation and further growth prospects of the U.S. economy, the first important fact to see is that the U.S. economic recovery since November 2001 has been by far the weakest in the whole postwar period.

First, inflation-adjusted hourly and weekly wages today are below where they were at the start of the recovery in November 2001; second, median household income (inflation adjusted) has fallen five years in a row and was 4% lower in 2004 than in 1999; third, total jobs since March 2001 (the start of the recession) are up 1.9% and private jobs 1.5% (at this stage of previous business cycles, jobs had grown 8.8%); (K. Richebaecher, 8/2006)

So the Feds will be adding even more debt in the face of a weak economic recovery--not a good augury for paying it off...

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