Sunday, May 27, 2007

Democrats: The Party of Pork!

Many pixels have been spilled about the craven cowardice of the Democrats in passing the Capitulation Bill. Much of the critcism from the progressive side has been focused not only on the actual, direct consequences of allowing the Bush Administration to run roughshod over the American People, our soldiers in Iraq and the Iraqis themselves, but also on the subsequent media portrayal of Democrats as weak, ineffectual and kowtowing to Mr. 28% Approval Rating.

Less noticed, however, has been an even more nefarious media meme to come out of this turkey of a bill: that Republicans are the Party of War, while the Democrats are the Party of Pork.

So amazingly spinelss was the the Democratic stance in essentially giving away the store to Bush and his merry band of Neocons that some in the traditional media have been forced to look at this bill not as a dead giveaway, but rather as some sort of compromise. After all, why capitulate so dramatically on an issue where the will of the people is so clear? As best as they can tell, the apparent "compromise" was in ramming through some "domestic spending" priorities--which the vast majority of Americans will read as Pork, regardless of its inherent legitimacy or lack thereof.

Don't believe me? Consider this article by David Espo, Chief Congressional Correspondent for the AP, printed in newspapers all across America, titled Analysis: An Iraq Bill No One Loved (though I should note that the print version of the Des Moines Register where I saw it was titled "Iraq War financing bill leaves both sides hungry: But it has successfully staved off the veto battle that both parties feared")

Analysis: An Iraq Bill No One Loved

The Iraq war funding bill cleared by Congress represents a triumph of divided government, beloved by none, crafted to avoid a protracted veto struggle that neither President Bush nor Democrats wanted.

"We feel like we've moved an iceberg an inch," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida, acknowledging the enormity of the task confronting Democrats who took office in January determined to end the war.

Not that top Republicans were happy with legislation that included about $8 billion in domestic spending, added at Democratic insistence. "We've got a whole host of other issues that don't deserve to be put on the backs of our men and women in the military," said House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio shortly before the vote. "It's a sneaky way to do business."

In other words, the Dems didn't give the GOP everything they wanted on a silver platter--this was just politics as usual in Washington. A give and take. Compromise. Sausage-making at its finest, leaving both sides relieved but discontent. The Republicans got what they wanted and Democrats didn't (a never-ending occupation) and Democrats got what they wanted and Republicans didn't ($8 billion in spending). Sounds like a fair trade to me!

Epso's article continues with quotes from both sides supposedly signaling the difficult complexity of the issue, but instead demonstrating the incredible capacity for mendacious bullshit on the part of elected officials on both sides of the aisle:

And [Republicans] were no less clear that their commitment to the current war policy isn't open-ended. "I think that the handwriting is on the wall that we are going in a different direction in the fall, and I expect the president to lead it," said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the GOP leader.

"You know, I think it's a statement of the obvious that the Iraq war is not popular," he added at a news conference on Friday. So much so that 81 percent of self-described political independents in a recent New York Times-CBS poll said things are going badly in Iraq.

If public sentiment on the war worries Republicans, it stirs a different emotion among Democrats.

"Anger that we do not have the power to make the will of the people of America the law of our land," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Durbin, Majority Leader Harry Reid and many other anti-war Senate Democrats voted for the bill. "I cannot vote ... to stop funding for our troops who are in harm's way," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

So not only is the bill a "compromise" that hurts both parties, it also enables outright lies in both parties: Republicans get to pretend that something will be different in Iraq rhetoric beyond the specifics of the next Friedman Unit being asked for, and Democrats get to pretend that they have no power of the purse to defund the Occupation. What a convenient twin set of lies!

Most telling, however, were the so-called compromise negotiations that took place between the White House and the Congress over the domestic spending priorities:

Officials in both parties described a series of events leading to the final deal.

Reid conveyed the concessions on Monday in a phone call to White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten.

In exchange, Reid wanted $21 billion in added spending. About $9 billion was for defense-related items, the other $12 billion for domestic programs such as hurricane relief, farmer aid, low-income children's health care and more.

Bolten said the administration would accept the military-related add-ons, these officials said, but came back with a counteroffer that left room for about $8 billion in domestic spending.

The outlines of a $120 billion bill were in place, but the haggling continued until Wednesday night.

Bolten and Budget Director Rob Portman told Reid they could not accept several of the items on a late Democratic wish list. Among them was a provision involving the sale of Christmas ornaments by the Senate's day care center. Bush had ridiculed it at one point, and could not now sign it.

That left a $2 billion item extending pension relief to American, Continental and other airlines. Portman told Reid it would have to go. The majority leader objected, but said he would call back.

When he did, he told the president's aides Bush could veto the bill if he wanted, but the pension provision was staying in the bill.

See? This is how Compromise works: in exchange for giving Bush unbridled and unchecked billions for the continued bloody occupation of Iraq, the Dems get to demand $21 billion in domestic spending projects like Christmas ornament sales in the Senate's day care center and airline bailouts. That fair trade serves as a tit-for-tat basis for bargaining in which the President gets to whittle down the Democrats' real priorities (spending) down to a "more reasonable" $8 billion, while retaining all the money he wants for his Occupation. And voila! We have a bill infused with the true spirit of American bipartisan compromise!

And make no mistake: this isn't just a bullshit meme being put out by an AP looking for some way to to rationalize the Democrats' apparent willingless to bow down before the Decider. There is definitely an element of truth to it. Consider this article in the Business Section of the Des Moines Register on the very same day:

Farm disaster assistance included in war bill
Twenty Iowa counties were damaged by drought or storms in 2005 and 2006.

The end to the battle over funding the Iraq war means that some farmers who lost crops to drought during the past two years may get government checks.

A supplementary spending bill for the war includes $3 billion in agricultural disaster assistance that farm groups had been trying to get through Congress since 2005....

"This has been almost a three-year effort and still the only way to get (disaster aid) was on a must-pass bill that the president was eventually going to have to sign," said Tom Buis, president of the National Farmers Union.

So Iowa Senators Tom Harkin (D) and Charles Grassley (R) get to go back to their (mostly big ag) constituents and say "hey, we couldn't stop Bush's occupation because we just had to get the troops funded--but we got you boys some drought relief! So whaddaya say: why not contribute to my re-election campaign?" It should come as no surprise that the comments attached to the article are filled with revulsion and disgust at the blatant vote-buying going taking place. I myself am disgusted.

So congratulations, Democrats! In one fell swoop with the Capitulation Bill, you've managed to accomplish the following:

1. Completely deflate the progressive base that swept you into power;

2. Annoy and probably lose many of the anti-Occupation independent voters who swept you into power expecting you to put a curb to Bush;

3. Reinforce the meme of your utter ineffectuality as a political party; and

4. Reinforce to the American People the idea that you are more interesting in increasing domestic spending than in standing up for your principles.

Bravo. I know I'm certainly proud to call myself a Democrat today...

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Blogger N. Hanks said...

Hi, I'm Nancy Hanks (at The Hankster) - I really liked what you said about the Dems losing the anti-Occupation independents. Did you see what I posted?

5:43 AM  
Blogger alex said...

3:44 AM  
Blogger thereis said...


no, i didn't. thanks for bringing it to my attention. great post.

2:57 PM  
Blogger Ron said...

When I see these discussions of 'pork,' I wonder if anyone understands how government works. Especially, how it has been forced to work over the past couple of decades of budget cuts.
Three points: 1) Having bought into the insane notion that government is bad, budgets have been consistently cut across the board since Reagan. The result has been the increasing inability of government agencies to to perform even the most basic aspects of their missions. This dysfuntion to the point today that the FDA can't inspect food and drugs, the Corps can't provide flood protection, Homeland Security can't secure the homeland, etc., etc. 2) Your job as Senator or Rep from you state is to bring these benefits to your constituents. You may do it becasue it's the only way you'll get reelected, but maybe you also don't like the idea of people in your state dying from anti-freeze contaminated toothpast, or drowning in a flood, or getting sick from contaminated drinking water. 3) The ONLY way you, as Senator or Rep, can get needed services for you commnity given current taxation/budgeting is by earmarking funds to be used for specific projects in your home state.
When I read the lament of 'too much pork.' I hear you telling the mom whose kid died from eating tainted lettuce that her desire for more funding for inspectors in border states is just 'pork' and she needs to suck it up. Free Market at work, don't you know. Next time, you'll know not to buy that brand. I hear you telling the family whose grandfather drowned because of unmaintained flood protection and the inability of agencies to rescue him that their loved one's life just wasn't worth allocating the money because it's just 'pork.' Why didn't he just take a cab or better yet why don't you just move to higher ground? It was his fault for being vulnerable anyway.
So next time there's an outbreak of plague, or there's 2 feet of water running through your neighborhood, or you're broken down on the side of dark deserted road and there's no one in sight to help, pat yourself on the back for your principled stand against all that unnecessary pork.

10:07 PM  

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