Archive for the ‘Lobbying’ Category

The End of “an End of an Era”

Written by Rebecca Zietlow on September 3rd, 2009

As I watched Ted Kennedy’s funeral and listened to the coverage of his life and death last week, I heard the phrase “the end of an era” so many times, it convinced me that people should stop using the term “the end of an era.” What does an “era” mean? According to the Oxford English dictionary, an “era” is defined as “a system of chronology reckoning from a noteworthy event.” Perhaps the commentators mean their observation to refer to the era beginning with the birth of Joseph Kennedy Sr.’s children. True, a genertion of Kennedy brothers had passed away now, ending the era of that generation of the Kennedy brothers. True, many of us (including myself, born the year that Ted Kennedy entered the Senate) cannot remember a time when Ted Kennedy was not in the Senate. True, thousands of liberals in America can no longer count on Senator Ted Kennedy to always speak for us in the Senate, and never apologize for being liberal. But what is the point of calling this an “era?’ What more do we learn from this phraseology?

Perhaps those who called Ted Kennedy’s death “the end of an era” intend announce the end of liberalism in America that was most prevalent in the 1960s but lingered until Ted Kennedy’s death. If thatmpphpH7AOUT[1]t is the case, then I must, most emphatically, object, not only to the phrasing but to the sentiment behind the phrase. There remains a strong progressive tradition in the Democratic party, shared by many members of he general public who dop not affiliate themselves with that party. The progressive tradition was most recently re-affirmed by the election of President Obama (with Ted Kennedy’s crucial support) and his numerous Demcratic colleagues in Congress. It is reaffirmed in the polls that show that despite months of the healthcare industry spending over a million dollars a day to fight health care reform, the American public still strongly supports it, and still demands a change to our health care system. So, let’s put an end to this talk about “the end of an era” and concentrate on what we need now. There’s never an end of the era of need for the poor and middle class folks in this country who demand health care reform.

Earmarks and Block Grants

Written by Henry L. Chambers, Jr. on September 16th, 2008

John McCain continues to discuss earmarks as though they are the second greatest threat to America, after radical Islam, of course. He suggests that earmarking – the practice of a congressman or senator directing how specific funds in an appropriations bill will be spent – are the budget-busting bane of America’s existence. However, given how earmarks work, McCain’s approach to earmarks will merely result in block grants to governors like his running mate Sarah Palin or merely guarantee complete executive branch control over government spending. What it does not do is require fidelity to budget cutting or budget balancing.

The flap over the so-called Bridge To Nowhere is instructive. Through an earmark pushed by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Representative Don Young (R-AK), $___ million was appropriated for the Bridge to Nowhere – a bridge connecting the airport on Gravina Island serving Ketchikan, Alaska to the mainland. Eventually, after $40 million [of the appropriation] was spent to build an access road to the bridge site, the Alaska DOT realized that the appropriation would be insufficient to build the bridge. Alaska essentially received a block grant when Governor Palin cancelled the project, used much of the remainder of the money for various transportation projects around Alaska and put the rest away.

Under a McCain Administration, the Bridge appropriation would have been canceled and reallocated by DOT staff. Either Sen. Stevens and Rep. Young would have been able to convince the staff of the value of the project or not. However, the only distinction between this situation and the Bridge To Nowhere situation is who makes the decision – the executive branch (with input from Congressmen and lobbyists) or Congress (with input from state officials and lobbyists).

McCain may prefer that the executive branch rather than the legislative branch make the allocation decision. However, from a constitutional standpoint, there is nothing inherently wrong with Congress making the allocation decision.