Thursday, March 5, 2009

You Want $600,000 for What?

I love Twitter.

I love it because it's quick, it's easy, it allows me to keep up with some of my friends more quickly than I could otherwise, and it allows me to track the breaking news posted by several national television stations and newspapers.

Twitter also allows me to follow the goings-on of several politicians to find out what they're up to on a daily basis. Obviously, I would prefer that they pay attention to what's going on in the committee hearings and floor debates that they are so kindly tweeting about, but having worked for Congress for nearly ten years and being a political junkie, I appreciate being kept in the loop (or in my case, in the beltway).

One of the things I've loved about the past few days is that one of the folks I'm following, Senator John McCain, has been doing a daily top ten list of some of the more egregious examples of earmarks in the FY 2010 omnibus bill being debated this week in the Senate (he calls it his top ten list of porkiest projects). Yes, I will argue that there are some legitimate things in the bill that will prove important to a lot of people (chiefly, the funding to keep the government up and running). But folks, come on - really? Have you looked at this list? Some of the items McCain has pointed out (the numbers are his; the comments are mine) include:
  • $632,000 for the Hungry Horse Project. Those are some mighty pricey oats.
  • $59,000 for Dismal Swamp and Dismal Swamp Canal in Virginia. What could you possibly want to do to a swamp?
  • $95,000 for the state of New Mexico to find a dental school location. Really? Do you really have to pay someone $95,000 to say, "That looks like a good spot?"
  • $150,000 for lobster research. What's to research? They're delicious!
  • $950,000 for a Convention Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. As much tourist traffic as Myrtle Beach draws, can't they afford to pay for their own convention center just with the revenue from the hotels and restaurants and other tourist spots?
  • $118,750 for a building to house an aircraft display in Rantoul, Illinois. Isn't this called a hangar? Don't airports have hangars? Couldn't an area airport host the display?
  • $380,000 for a recreation and fairground area in Kotzebue, Alaska. Okay, I just had to look this up, since I had never heard of the place - the total population is 3,237. And it's in Alaska; isn't the entire state a recreation area?
  • $190,000 to build a Living Science Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana. The living science of what, Mardi Gras?
And in a bill that is hundreds and hundreds of pages, there are a lot more of these provisions tucked in (in fact, there are 8,992 more). It's ridiculous that we're paying for all of this -- and our kids will pay for this, and their kids will pay for this.

Change, transparency, reform; I seem to recall hearing these three words quite a bit from both sides of the aisle. I haven't really seen much change or reform to this point, and despite the assertions of many to the contrary, I don't expect to see many changes in the future.

And as far as transparency? All I can say is, "Thank you, Twitter!"


  1. Why, oh, why couldn't they just work on the economy? Argh. I love this glad you're doing it.

  2. How about the "swine odor improvement" section!! Wonder if this means hiding the "pork" in the budget???

  3. I am following local senator McCaskill on twitter.. I like that she tweets personal and govt stuff. Does McCain actually tweet or does a staffer tweet for him? I try to stay away from ghost tweeters as well as marketing ones. I'd love to follow McCain if he does his own tweets.

    I heard that the minority party (the GOP) is responsible for 40% of earmarks.. have you heard that Matt? If true then McCain probably has a bit of GOP work to do.. hard to change the Dems when you can't change the GOP>

  4. Karen - Thanks; as you can tell, I'm really enjoying doing it.

    Dad - Don't think it means hiding it; I think that it's just making the earmarks a bit more palatable!

    KB - McCain is actually doing his own; that's the only reason I signed up. I also signed up for Mark Warner (freshman senator from here in Virginia) - you can definitely tell which ones are doing their own. As far as the earmarks, the GOP is in fact responsible for 40 percent of them - and both parties can equally share blame for the shape we're in right now. McCain certainly is one who can argue against them, since he has not asked for a single earmark in his entire congressional career. The thing that really aggravates me is folks like Sen. Kyl, who - when confronted this week on Fox News Sunday about his own earmark requests - responded that his requests didn't fall under the strict definition of earmarks. That's going to play really well.

  5. Who is the real McCain of twitter Matt?

    1) SenJohnMcCain
    2) JohnMcCain
    3) McCainNews
    4) youngjohnmccain

    Probably not fakejohnmccain

    Alas, I went with #1 like you did Matt.

  6. I suspect that McCain doesn't quite understand twitter.. seems to just use it as a political vehicle.

    On the flip side here is one of Claire McCaskill's tweets this morning:

    "Havng girlfriends over for dinner. I'm cooking. Yes, I love to cook & I'm pretty darn good at it. Off to grocery store."

    I am enjoying following some of the big names on twitter.. interesting what some of them share.