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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 12/28/2010

Earmarks, lettermarks, phonemarks (hey -- why no textingmarks?)

By Jonathan Bernstein

I suppose everyone's going to be reading Ron Nixon's article this morning about the ways that members of Congress influence agencies to spend on specific projects with or without earmarks.  And they should; it's well-reported. 

What's missing, however, is what's exactly at stake here. The article, at least as I read it, seems to be framed around exposing hypocrisy: Republicans are against earmarks, but it turns out they're all for other, similar forms of procuring spending for their districts. Fair enough. 

That, however, overlooks the entire context of earmarks.  I'd explain it, but Ezra Klein did an excellent job already last week, so I'll just quote him:

If you get rid of earmarks, you don't get rid of the money that gets spent on earmarks. It's just that the agencies, rather than the Congress, get to decide where that money goes. That is to say, unelected bureaucrats make the decisions that elected representatives had been making. Power centralizes in Washington, D.C. Local concerns don't echo so loudly. The executive branch becomes stronger.

That's pretty much it. Earmarks (or their cousins) aren't about how much money the government will spend; they're about who makes the decisions: elected politicians or the bureaucracy, Congress or executive branch departments and agencies.

Politically, the earmark fight seems to be based on how easy it is to mock specific federally-funded projects. That, and the truly odd fact that federal spending is unpopular in general and popular when broken down into categories -- but that specific projects, usually presented out of context, are again easy to dislike. For example, spending on health research is wildly popular, but everyone enjoys laughing at the (seemingly) on-again, off-again advice that research produces.

But substantively, this is a straight battle over who gets to make decisions, Congress or the bureaucracy.

Jonathan Bernstein writes about American politics, political institutions and democracy at A Plain Blog About Politics, and you can follow him on Twitter here.

By Jonathan Bernstein  | December 28, 2010; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  House GOPers, Senate Republicans  
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Next: The early line on 2012

Comments

Mr. Bernstein, were you part of Ezra Klein's Journ-O-List?
I searched your other blog, but you don't mention it at all. I also sent you an email asking this question privately, alas, no reply yet.

Posted by: clawrence12 | December 28, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse


Article in the Post yesterday on HIPPA and how the programs in the States for high-risk pools are not working


The prices of the Obama insurance are too high - even though Obama put Billions of taxpayer money into these programs State-by-State


OK - let's have a quick review


1) the added required Obama benefits have caused insurance costs for EVERYONE to increase 10-25%


2) this in sharp contrast to Obama and the democrats saying passage of the bill would bring down premiums OBAMA LIED

3) Now the State pools are failing


Obama was supposed to start off his health care plan with these insurane pools - funded with Billions of YOUR MONEY


And yet even with all that money, the cost of the insurance in those programs is too high


If Obama cant do these early simple things right, the nation is in for a pack of trouble when the more difficult and more expensive parts of the program start to get implemented


Yikes this is serious


The Obama health care people really dont know what they are doing

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 28, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Too many details for Republicans. They won't understand this. If they can't blame Obama or Russia or Liberals then it's too much thinking required to form any kind of meaningful opinion.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | December 28, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

It is a sad testament to the failings of human nature that we must spend so much of our time fighting against our own governments.

This is a perfect example. The problem isn't republican hypocrasy, or democrat perfidy. No the problem is power.

DC denizens don't recognize any constraints on their power now. If they can force us to buy something we don't want they can basically force us to do anything they can imagine. Certainly they can force us to pay more and more taxes while they waste our effort on bike paths to nowhere and NGO's that pee money way on pipe dreams.

Americans have to decide what to do next. If the recent election results didn't get the attention of the DC power mongers what will?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 28, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I see clawrence is a standard-issue mccarthyite -- attack the messenger to drown out the message.

Mr. Bernstein -- did you see this as well?

"The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities examined the GOP's proposed new rules for the House, and here's what they found.

The new rules would stand the reconciliation process on its head, by allowing the House to use reconciliation to push through bills that greatly increase deficits, while barring the use of reconciliation in the House for legislation that reduces the deficit."

Posted by: fiona5 | December 28, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

In response to this:
====================
Too many details for Republicans. They won't understand this. If they can't blame Obama or Russia or Liberals then it's too much thinking required to form any kind of meaningful opinion
=======================

It is sad that the good intentions of this season of the year were wasted on you. Such a shame.

Still, may God bless you Ethan. Rest you merry gentleman

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 28, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

OT:

Must-read --

American companies created almost 2.5 million jobs in 2010... but the majority of those jobs were created OVERSEAS!

Corporate profits are up. Stock prices are up. So why isn't anyone hiring?

Actually, many American companies are -- just maybe not in your town. They're hiring overseas, where sales are surging and the pipeline of orders is fat.

[...]

The Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, says American companies have created 1.4 million jobs overseas this year, compared with less than 1 million in the U.S. The additional 1.4 million jobs would have lowered the U.S. unemployment rate to 8.9 percent, says Robert Scott, the institute's senior international economist.

"There's a huge difference between what is good for American companies versus what is good for the American economy," says Scott

http://www.salon.com/news/great_recession/?story=/news/feature/2010/12/28/us_overseas_hiring

American workers, let's say it together now:

Thank you Republicans! Thank you for federal tax breaks that pay companies to outsource our jobs overseas! We don't need jobs here, it's much more important for the federal government to fund job creation in Asia! Thank you GOP for defending corporate welfare and keeping the American worker unemployed! Thank you thank you thank you!

Posted by: Ethan2010 | December 28, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

@Ethan2010: "Thank you Republicans! Thank you for federal tax breaks that pay companies to outsource our jobs overseas! We don't need jobs here, it's much more important for the federal government to fund job creation in Asia!"

That's fine, as far as it goes. But what Democrats are actively suggesting that we drop out of the global economy? Or even levy onerous tariffs on companies that do too much importing or outsource too many jobs?

BTW, while I'm not as hostile to the global economy as perhaps you are--I think it's inevitable, and a net good, over time--I'm hoping that we can get together and agree that outsourcing customer service should be a capital federal offense. Also, any outsourcing of telemarketing.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | December 28, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

This is wildly off topic, unless you consider the link between earmarks and the economy of STATES. There was a lot of trash talk about CA after the Nov. election, some of it here, especially after announcing I was a born, bred and will die here Californian. Here's a response to some of the more egregious national discourse from our own Bill Lockyear. And besides everything else discussed in the piece, we also beat back the threat from the oil industry. Be sure to read the part about venture capitalists.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"First, let's look at the default threat. California has never failed to make its bond payments on time and in full, not even during the Depression. And there is no chance we will smudge that pristine record.

Payment of debt service is constitutionally protected, with bond payments required even when the state is operating without a budget. Debt service has second call on general fund dollars, right behind education. Under the California Constitution, making sure bond investors get their money is a higher priority than providing healthcare to kids, protecting the environment and keeping our communities safe.

During the current fiscal year, general fund revenues are expected to total $89.4 billion. Education spending under Proposition 98 will total $36 billion. That leaves $53.4 billion available to pay debt service on bonds — more than eight times the $6.6 billion the state will need.

Our critics say we are addicted to spending. But the numbers show that isn't true. Thirty years ago, general fund expenditures totaled about $7.43 for every $100 of personal income. In the 2009-10 fiscal year, that ratio was almost $2 less, at $5.52 for every $100 of personal income. In the current fiscal year, per capita general fund expenditures will total $2,246, less than the $2,289 spent 10 years ago and roughly equal to the inflation-adjusted level of 15 years ago.

Moreover, state and local government has grown slimmer relative to California's population. In 2009, the state had 107 state employees per 10,000 residents, the fourth-lowest proportion in the nation and 25% below the national average. California also has the sixth-lowest combined number of state and local government employees relative to population, 12% below the national average and 16% below Texas.

California's current budget woes have been caused by the devastation visited on our revenue base by the recession, not a failure to curb spending. In the three fiscal years preceding this one, general fund expenditures fell by $16 billion."

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/dec/20/opinion/la-oe-lockyer-california-outlook-20101220

Posted by: lmsinca | December 28, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

And of course we should trust the economic policy institutes "findings" because they are just sooooooo objective right?

Here's a brief list of the unions represented on their board of directors:

United Steel Workers
United Auto Workers
American Federation of Teachers
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
Service Employees International Union
and of course:
AFofL-CIO.

Sorry to say it Ethan but there is simply no reason not to take a huge dose of salt before consuming much of anything produced by this outfit.

Tell ya what, I'll give these guys about the same respect you'd give to AEI or CATO. Whaddaya say?

God rest you merry, gentleman!

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 28, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

"-I'm hoping that we can get together and agree that outsourcing customer service should be a capital federal offense. Also, any outsourcing of telemarketing."

Especially to countries where they don't seem to really speak English very well. As you probably know, the US Chamber of Commerce actively promotes outsourcing, offering businesses seminars which provide information and assistance on hiring foreign workers.

It's all part of the Republican agenda to force wage prices down in this country, so that middle class people who work here will be forced to work for much less.

Posted by: fiona5 | December 28, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

"I see clawrence is a standard-issue mccarthyite..."

My Dad worked for McCarthy's campaign.

There, I save Brigade the trouble of making the same joke all over again.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 28, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Still, may God bless you Ethan. Rest you merry gentleman

Posted by: skipsailing28
__________________________
Skip:
I hope your newly found sense of humanity lasts longer than the holiday season.

Posted by: bob29 | December 28, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Earmarks make good political theater.

But that is about as far as one can toss them. Certainly they will never clear the Potomac.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | December 28, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

lms:

"Thirty years ago, general fund expenditures totaled about $7.43 for every $100 of personal income. In the 2009-10 fiscal year, that ratio was almost $2 less, at $5.52 for every $100 of personal income.

I'm curious about 2 things. First, I would be curious about the "personal income" statistic relative to privately earned personal income. It makes no sense to include in the income number amounts paid by the government itself.

Second, I would like to know what other expenditures there are besides "general fund expenditures", and what the difference is between such expenditures 30 years ago and today.

Any idea?

Posted by: ScottC3 | December 28, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

New polls on Palin--demonstrates once again just how out of mainstream thinking teabaggers are:

'It's a well known fact that Sarah Palin is the most unpopular major political figure in the country...one thing that may be less well known is that one of the states where voters have the dimmest view of her is her own home state of Alaska.

We've polled Palin's favorability in ten states over the last couple months. In Alaska just 33% of voters have a favorable opinion of her to 58% with a negative one. The only place where fewer voters see her positively than her own home state is dark blue Massachusetts.

As Jensen points out, it's not just that Palin is unpopular in Alaska -- it's that she's unpopular everywhere.

What's more relevant is that a majority of voters in every single state we have polled so far on the 2012 race has an unfavorable opinion of her. And her average favorability in the Bush/Obama states of Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia that are most likely essential to Republican chances of retaking the White House is 36/56. Democrats can only hope..."

Posted by: fiona5 | December 28, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

lms:

For example, it appears that state pension fund expenditures are not a part of the general fund expenditures, and therefore are not included in the statistic. Yet we know that state pension obligations are one of the biggest fiscal problems that states across the nation face, CA included I assume.

Posted by: ScottC3 | December 28, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

lms:

Below find a list of all of the funds in California that exist outside of the General Funds. If I understand it correctly, expenditures from these funds will not have been included in the spending figures from your article. Seems a little crazy to compare spending figures from one time to the next without actually looking at everything the state is spending money on.

http://www.dof.ca.gov/budgeting/budget_faqs/documents/FundClassifications.pdf

Posted by: ScottC3 | December 28, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

I'll take the bureaucracy anyday.

They work for ALL of the taxpayers. Earmarks are individually targeted to a specific congressional district and are down payments on getting the sponsor reelected.

By the way earmarks are added on TOP of the budgets the bureaucracy generates so they DO increase spending. The whole premise of your article is based on a false assumption.

Oh well, good opportunity to once again bash the bureaucrats. Go for it!

Posted by: goPostal | December 28, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Scott

If you're going to add in expenditures other than general fund per capita, then you'd have to compare it to other states expenditures to get a sense of true spending. Maybe you have time for that. And did you happen to catch the piece following Chrisie's interview on 60 minutes that explained exactly WHY there was such a shortfall in pension funds in NJ and other states? There were also some shenanigans re municipal bonds that have cost numerous states penalty fees in order to back out.

The point is while there may be some over promising of pensions in the public sector, the REAL economic woes of the states are in lack of revenue due to a recession, and in CA the housing market is big business, so we're in a big hole. Just like every other state, we're cutting, cutting, cutting and eventually we'll climb our way out. But if we all sell our souls to the Austerity God, and neglect essential investments in education, infrastructure, new industry etc. etc. we'll only be worse off in the long run. Just my opinion.

Posted by: lmsinca | December 28, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

lms:

"If you're going to add in expenditures other than general fund per capita, then you'd have to compare it to other states expenditures to get a sense of true spending."

Or compare it to 30 years ago in CA, as the author was doing. And who knows, it may well end up being similar ratios. I am just instinctively skeptical when I read something like this that seems to be making a broad generalization (we don't spend any more than we used to!), and a rather counter-intuitive one at that, but then relies on very narrow and specific stats to support it.

"And did you happen to catch the piece following Chrisie's interview on 60 minutes that explained exactly WHY there was such a shortfall in pension funds in NJ and other states?"

Nope. But I can guess.

Posted by: ScottC3 | December 28, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Scott

I have become instinctively skeptical about almost everything these days. I will say though that Bill Lockyear has been an innovative State Treasurer for a career politician and has done a lot to get our Governor and State Legislature to do away with accounting gimmicks to balance the budget and face the reality of what we have, not what we wish we had. I think the LA Times piece was in response to specific criticism and not meant to be a sweeping accounting of the CA state budget.

Posted by: lmsinca | December 28, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Health care "reform" too. The "signature issue".

Posted by: deepthroat21 | December 28, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

my goodness but if the Republicans were have as nefarious and half as effective as the liberals here seem to think we'd all have been serfs a generation ago!

Here is a perfect example:
=============
It's all part of the Republican agenda to force wage prices down in this country, so that middle class people who work here will be forced to work for much less.

======================

is it just that the Republicans want to lay waste to vast swathes of the American citizenry or is it market forces and global logistics that creates endless competition?

A while ago I did a little reading about shoe manufacturing in America. Most of those jobs disappeared shortly after WW2. The simple fact is that the machinery needed to make shoes became so inexpensive and easy to use that the job of keeping them running became portable.

Textiles are another good example. As the technology became more common place and easier to sustain the manufacturing based on it became more wide spread. We lost garment jobs to Mexico, who lost them to China, who is losing them to viet Nam, who will lose them to Africa.

It is sad that this myth about nefarious republicans still exists. It is not only completely unsupported by actual fact it also damages our ability to rationally confront the issues we face.

Yes, jobs Americans used to do get exported. but I have a hard time understanding the liberal objection to global prosperity. Didn't the left used to want a better life for everyone? Oh yeah, that was back when ideals mattered. Today only power matters.

And BTW I am not at all concerned about the "plight" of the middle class in America. Our lives have never been better.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 28, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

And BTW I am not at all concerned about the "plight" of the middle class in America. Our lives have never been better.
--------------------------------------------------------------

Contrast that with this:

Every city surveyed reported that requests for emergency food assistance increased by an average of 24 percent across the cities over the past year. Among those requesting emergency food service, 56 percent were families and 30 percent were employed. When asked to report on the three main causes of hunger, respondents cited unemployment, housing costs and low wages.

From U.S. Conference of Mayors Report 12/20/10

http://www.usmayors.org/pressreleases/uploads/RELEASEHUNGERHOMELESSNESS2010FINALtuesday.pdf

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | December 28, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

And BTW I am not at all concerned about the "plight" of the middle class in America. Our lives have never been better.
--------------------------------------------------------------

Contrast that with this:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Or this one discussing baby boomers:

The traditional pension plan is disappearing. In 1980, some 39 percent of private-sector workers had a pension that guaranteed a steady payout during retirement. Today that number stands closer to 15 percent, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington, D.C.

_ Reliance on stocks in retirement plans is greater than ever; 42 percent of those workers now have 401(k)s. But the past decade has been a lost one for stocks, with the Standard & Poor's 500 index posting total returns of just 4 percent since the beginning of 2000.

_ Many retirees banked on their homes as their retirement fund. But the crash in housing prices has slashed almost a third of a typical home's value. Now 22 percent of homeowners, or nearly 11 million people, owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth. Many are boomers.

Posted by: lmsinca | December 28, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

skipsailing28 writes
"I am not at all concerned about the "plight" of the middle class in America. Our lives have never been better."

skipper, do you have objective numbers with which to make your case, or just anecdotal evidence like "things are OK for me, so it must mean the entire middle class is doing just fine"?

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 28, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

yet the purchasing power we now generate is better than at just about any time in history.

VDH did an excellent break down of this just last week. Let's take the cost of gasoline as an example. Yes it has risen in price, but as fast as inflation? and what of the amount we consume? More fuel efficient vehicles means we spend less on gas, not more.

Yes liberals point to wage stagnation and wring their hands, but do they understand what that wage means in terms of purchasing power?

And I can understand why people are going to private food banks for help. The only way to get public help is to first get divorced.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 28, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I used to believe the promise of global prosperity. I used to believe that Americans who were displaced would be retrained for higher paying jobs. What a lie that was. We would have seen the folly of this strategy ten years ago, had Americans not used their homes as ATM machines and provided lenders one last orgy of profitability.

Now, we have lost our jobs, our homes, our pensions, our health insurance. Where is the part where it's supposed to benefit us? We're still waiting for that and no one even talks anymore about Americans get *higher* paying jobs. Even *higher* paying jobs are going overseas. Now, Americans are getting *lower* paying jobs, but only if they are lucky.

How can people refuse to see that we have destroyed ourselves by being indifferent to the destruction of industries over the last thirty years.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | December 28, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

"And I can understand why people are going to private food banks for help. The only way to get public help is to first get divorced."

Skip, you appear to be divorced from reality today, what's up with you?

Posted by: lmsinca | December 28, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Between 12Bar and Skip there actually is a very logical middle ground. This is the so called "fair trade" argument...

The problem with the current global "free trade" economy is that it is built on an uneven foundation. Because of provisions in WTO rules, etc. that prohibit trade discrimination based on process, the ability to regulate imports for product quality and social/environmental compliance are severely degraded (though exceptions for such issues exist, they are difficult to implement in practice). This is particularly problematic when the main overseas producers are not democratic (lack of effective local opposition to the negative impacts), and when the environmental problems are global in impact (e.g. Climate Change).

Thus, all those things we think are important under a democracy (clean air, fair labor practices, etc.) become drivers of cost inequity between overseas and domestic production. Here in the U.S. we are forced into either abandoning our social/environmental protections in a race to the bottom for economic competitiveness, or offshoring those jobs and problems (some of which will come back to bite us). The problem with US competitiveness is not too much domestic regulation, but rather lack of such regulation overseas.

If given a truly level playing field, US jobs would still go overseas for highly labor intensive/labor cost driven jobs. Labor costs are simply lower abroad, and in extreme cases the cost of shifting production and importing is less than the cost of producing domestically. At the same time, the benefits to the US consumer of those lower prices would still accrue domestically, so even if we won't have any textile mills here in the US, we'll still have cheap shoes and T-shirts that offset some of that problem.

However, I think we'd also be surprised at how competitive the US worker is at producing goods EFFICIENTLY once the true social and environmental costs of production are internalized. This would mean the costs of many products would go up (we wouldn't have foreign workers and environments subsidizing our consumption any longer)... but we're paying for those costs already... just in different forms as environmental degradation, lost jobs, etc.

Free trade, with a level playing field, is good for the US, and people overseas. Unfortunately, the extremes want to either ignore the level playing field, or shut downb trade altogther...

Posted by: cjfarls | December 28, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Fiona, are you equating being part of Journ-O-List with being a Communist spy? Even I wouldn't go that far. You would at least agree that Communist spies in the U.S. government were a bad thing, right?

Posted by: clawrence12 | December 28, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

to 12barblues
We cannot blame the emerging global prosperity for the calamities that beset us. As a democracy we have none to blame but ourselves.

My view of this: Greed will always be with us. It is a function of human nature. Thieves will always be with us. That, too, is a function of human nature. We paid the government to protect us from greedy thieves but it turns out that the government itself is people with them. The collusion between wall street and DC has rendered great harm to our nation. The only thing that I can imagine being worse is indifference to this unholy alliance.

Further the government's well intentioned but basically misguiged efforts at social engineering have, as always, resulted in disaster for the people. Many of us may yearn for a world of peace tranquility and fairness but it is clear at this point that no government can manufacture such a thing.

to lmsinca, thanks for the expression of concern. yeah, I got the grumps. I will shake them off shortly. It is function of living in a dying city during bad weather.

cjfarls makes an interesting point. But it seems to me that his (her) solution isn't to cast off onerous rules and taxes in America but to make production elsewhere at least as costly. I just don't see how that will NOT result in higher t shirt prices.

Further, many of us simply don't agree that the decisions concerning the environment in China have the far reaching effects that he (she?) claims.

I understand the dynamic here: to the extent that jobs leave America for reasons other than labor cost the burden of compliance with OUR regulations should shift with the production. but I don't see other countries embracing the 68,000 Federal Register pages that each new year brings us. I just don't.

In a letter I recieved from Marcy Kaptur it was explained that her goal was to preserve jobs in America by imposing American standards on the rest of the world. So if autos are to be built in the Kingdom of Burundi, then the employees there must be unionized and be paid UAW scale. The chances of that happening are basically zero.

Finally I don't see that the proposal speaks to a primary reason that many manufacturing jobs have disappeared: automation/mechanization. My good friend Steve is a welder. His nearest co worker is a robot.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 28, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

"The collusion between wall street and DC has rendered great harm to our nation. The only thing that I can imagine being worse is indifference to this unholy alliance."

Skip

I agree with this 100% and it has permeated the entire political process. I do think more people are becoming aware of it and I also believe if anyone tries another TARP you will see a revolt. Keep the faith re the American people though, we're smarter than they give us credit for. We're down but we're not out.

I see my kids and their friends blossoming and growing and it gives me hope for the future still.

Posted by: lmsinca | December 28, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

As a former Federal worker, I find the comment about "bureaucrats deciding how to spend Federal money" to be very offensive. Agencies that give out a lot of grants like Justice, Transportation and HHS have very clear and strict criteria about how the grants are selected and awarded. The worst thing that could happen out of the earmark ban would be if the corruption and sleaze that now pervades the Congress were to insert itself into the Executive agencies' grant selection process, which currently operates with fairness and openness for the most part.

Posted by: armyofone | December 28, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Tell you what, clawrence, let's assume that anyone guesting for Greg is a Journolister. That should make your ad hominem attacks sooooooo much easier. Ahem. Back on topic.

In case anyone wonders why these bills are 2000 pages long, it's because Congress wants to dot every eye and cross every t. Anyone ever heard of plus-ups? A lot of good research gets done that way.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 28, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Bernstein is either a moron, or takes the rest of us for morons. His eyes must be brown.... Congress reduces and/or changes the amounts stipulated in bills submitted for action all the time. So, Congress could not only bar earmarks but work to reduce the size of appropriation bills...duh.

Republicans have already pledged to do that...though as the disgraceful hypocrites they are, one has to wonder whether they will actually follow through.

Posted by: Rigged | December 28, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Bernstein is either a moron, or takes the rest of us for morons. His eyes must be brown.... Congress reduces and/or changes the amounts stipulated in bills submitted for action all the time. So, Congress could not only bar earmarks but work to reduce the size of appropriation bills...duh.

Republicans have already pledged to do that...though as the disgraceful hypocrites they are, one has to wonder whether they will actually follow through.

Posted by: Rigged | December 28, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Bernstein is either a moron, or takes the rest of us for morons. His eyes must be brown.... Congress reduces and/or changes the amounts stipulated in bills submitted for action all the time. So, Congress could not only bar earmarks but work to reduce the size of appropriation bills...duh.

Republicans have already pledged to do that...though as the disgraceful hypocrites they are, one has to wonder whether they will actually follow through.

Posted by: Rigged | December 28, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

First, FairlingtonBlade, you know what they say when we ass-u-me.

Posted by: clawrence12 | December 28, 2010 11:39 PM | Report abuse

If you are planning a mortgage refinance then you should search online for "123 Mortgage Refinance" before you decide they found 3.25% refinance with bad credit history and also did instant analysis of my mortgage.

Posted by: arleneellis | December 29, 2010 5:00 AM | Report abuse

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