Saturday, August 06, 2005

Congressman Jeff Flake on the Highway Bill

Thanks to BizzyBlog for e-mailing an interview with Cong. Jeff Flake, author of the Egregious Earmark of the Week press releases, on his recent vote against the Highway Bill. (For a good backgrounder on earmarks see Is Pork Barrel Spending Ready to Explode? The Anatomy of an Earmark)

Q: What is good about that highway bill? Why is it so important that it be done right?

A: Well, we have the gas tax. The purpose of a gas tax, initially, was to finish the Interstate Highway System. That was finished basically in 1980. Ever since 1980 we've just been floundering as to what to do with the money ­ how to allocate it back to the states. In 1981, I believe, there were a total of 10 earmarks in the highway bill. In 1987, President Reagan vetoed it because there were 150 ­ he considered that excessive. In 1992, there were 500 earmarks. Then Republicans took over and we said we're going to change the way we do business here. Yeah, we changed it. In 1998, I believe there were 1,500 earmarks and this time 6,300.
[Ed: The AP estimates the number or earmarks at 6,371.] We simply cannot sustain this trend. We're going to be earmarking every account and there will be less and less money going to freeways.
Congresswoman Jean Schmidt should take Jeff Flake on as a mentor when it comes to fiscal conservatism in Congress. House and Senate Republicans are squandering the power of their majority and the President is not helping either if he signs this bill.

As Porkopolis has noted before, the fiscal conservative case for a divided government is mounting. If only the Democrats could be relied on to support the President on the War on Terror.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you know if there is a breakdown of earmarks by congressional district?

I'm waiting for COAST's press release that bashes Congressmen Chabot and other near-locals by name, threatens to run a primary opponent against Chabot, and gives props to Boehner for voting against (uh-huh).

I remember Chabot used to be pretty stingy. What happened?


August 6, 2005 at 10:49 PM  
Blogger Porkopolis said...


Get ready for a real outrage.

There are no publicly available paper trails for earmarks.

I referred to this in my post Fuel for cynicism which highlighted Ken Silverstein's article ('The Great American Pork Barrel') in Harper's Magazine.

From the post:

Cynics, lobbyists and folks who already know what "omnibus appropriations bills" and "earmarks" are will find nothing surprising in Ken Silverstein's grisly account of the accelerating avarice of our public servants. The overly young or idealistic, however, might be shocked to read how last year congressmen of both parties used murky legislative processes to raid the federal treasury and give billions in boondoggles to their pals and supporters back in their home districts.

Last year during in a two-day frenzy, Silverstein says, a small gang of senators and representatives turned a huge appropriation bill called the Foreign Operations bill into "the biggest single piece of pork-barrel legislation in American history."

They did it by hastily inserting 11,761 extra pages -- or "earmarks" -- into the bill that authorized $16 billion in spending that included such things as $100,000 for goat research in Texas, $569,000 for "Future Foods" development in Illinois and $175,000 for obesity research in Texas.

What's worse, these lawmakers did everything in private. No public records exist to reveal who sought or got the earmarks, and Silverstein says congressmen on the appropriations committees conveniently have a blanket rule against blabbing.

August 7, 2005 at 9:58 AM  

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