Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Increasingly Uncomfortable

As I wrote in an article a couple of months ago, it is my desire that President Obama will be successful as our 44th president. I also mentioned that when he is making wise decisions, I will applaud him. On the other hand, if he makes unwise or ill-advised decisions, I will speak out. We’re only a few weeks into this administration and already my head is spinning!

Time and space do not allow me to address the numerous egregious executive decisions already made by this administration. Not even Bill Clinton was this brash and arrogant. We weathered the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy foisted upon our military as one of the first acts when he assumed office in 1993. Then he attempted to place the Health Care System under his wife’s control.

I love my country too much to ignore the blatant attempts to change the very nexus, the core of what makes this a great nation. My fear is that those elected officials we have asked to do the “people’s business,” will not have the courage to challenge and confront this administration before it gets completely out of hand.

Consider if you will, the debate over the Stimulus Bill that has been a source of contention for weeks. This bill is running dangerously close to a trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) of tax payer money intended to rescue a government that has grown increasingly inept at managing the people’s money. This “bailout” is supposed to be free of pork and earmarks. Right! Here’s a description of earmarks: Congressional earmarks are often defined loosely as anonymously authored guarantees of federal funds to particular recipients in appropriations-related documents. Typically, a legislator seeks to insert earmarks that direct a specified amount of money to a particular organization or project in his/her home state or district. With an earmark, Congress has given itself the ability to direct a specified amount of money from an agency's budget to be spent on a particular project, without the Members of the Congress having to identify themselves or the project.

This last sentence is troubling. There is no accountability for earmarks! A member of Congress can designate a portion of what is budgeted to some project without ever having to own up to it.

Then you have “pork” which is short for “pork barrel.” This expression developed early in American politics, eventually taking on a derogatory meaning following the Civil War. In nineteenth century America a way to determine a person’s standing in a community was to see how much lard and salt pork was in their pork barrel. The term “pork barrel politics” usually refers to spending that is intended to benefit constituents of a politician in return for their political support, either in the form of campaign contributions or votes. Typically, "pork" involves funding for government programs whose economic or service benefits are concentrated in a particular area but whose costs are spread among all taxpayers. Public works projects, certain national defense spending projects, and agricultural subsidies are the most commonly cited examples.

The rush to pass this Stimulus Bill is a warning to us all. As I was growing up, I was advised to never rush into anything and that if you were being pressured to make a quick decision, say no, or simply walk away. The more I listen to the debate over this bill, the more I’m convinced that Congress has no idea how any of our money is going to be spent. And, even more troubling is the failure to establish a reasonable measure of accountability. This is a bad bill, and will not stimulate anything except certain people’s bank accounts.

President Obama has been saying that for the past eight years the Bush tax cuts have not worked to stimulate the economy. This is disingenuous. Tax cuts do work – every time! What made it appear that the Bush tax cuts did not work in stimulating the economy is that Congress (Yes, under Republican control!) continued to spend taxpayer money shamelessly leading the nation into deeper and deeper debt. And President Obama knows this.

Perhaps equally troubling to me is the manner in which the president has been conducting himself publicly. I refer particularly to his news conferences and town hall meetings. In a couple of instances reporters and average citizens have had the temerity to call into question certain decisions made by the president. Mr. Obama responded with irritation and impatience, bordering on anger. This from our president! This is the same man who, while on the campaign trail, was described as looking positively presidential. If he is unsettled with mildly challenging questions from fellow Americans, I ask you, how will he handle the likes of Russia’s Vladimir Putin? Or Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

Mr. President, you’re in the big leagues now. Listen to the people – all the people. Be very careful of who you surround yourself with. The American people are very forgiving. They expect you to do what is right. However, you will diminish your influence if you spurn and disregard the very people you were elected to serve.

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