Janet's Conner

This Blog tell the Truth and will never not tell the Truth. Impeach Bush

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Budget bill includes many earmarks for politicians' pet projects

BILOXI, Miss.---This city's east side remains largely abandoned, a bleak panorama of empty lots and abandoned homes left behind by the tradesmen, shrimpers and casino workers who once lived here.

Hundreds had little or no insurance. For people such as 83-year-old Elzora Brown, a retired dry-cleaning presser whose little frame house was waterlogged up to the eaves, there's not enough federal disaser aid for repairs. "Whatever the Lord sees fit, that's what I'll have," she said.

Just down the coast in Pascagoula, defense contractor Grumman Corp. similarly didn't have enough insurance to cover hurricane losses at its shipyards. But the company isn't awaiting divine intervention.

It had an ally in the U.S. Senate and is slated to receive $140 million for rebuilding.

"The losses incurred...could adversely impact those jobs, add to the cost of the high-tech destroyers and cruisers the shipyard is building for the Navy, and affect our national security." said Sen. Trent Lott (R-MISS). Northrop's money is tucked into the $109B spending bill intended for Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq war. It is an earmark, one of those narrowly focused appropriations that members of Congress arrange for their constituents or favored recipients.

***I've got to say it! Do you know how you can point out one of Bush's puppets? It's become something that they "all" have been doing. Whenever you hear one of them say phrases like Trent Lott (R-MISS), just did. "National security!" The Republicans have tried to condition us into believing that whenever they say things like "National Security," "National Interest," so on and so forth, that the American people are supposed to just shut up and don't ask questions. Unfortunately, they have succeeded in their conditioning of the American people, because whenever you hear it, nobody questions it. Even the reporters seem to just shut up! You people had better start opening up your ears and get those brainwaves going! I wish out was out there when somebody was taking questions! And what about this constituent thing? Aren't "the people" considered their contituents anymore, or does it just mean "their financial supporters?"

In recent years, Congress has been on a spending binge worth tens of billions of dollars, and there has been talk on Capitol Hill or reining in earmarks. But the Senate version of the bill includes billions in such spending, covering an array of far-flung causes: New England shellfisherman affected by ride tide, a program to fight an insect ravaging pine trees in the Rockies, and a road in Hawaii.

Critics have pointed to the bill as a monumental example of earmarking taken to extremes, with many noting that while the bill was supposed to address "emergency" spending for the war and Katrina relief, many of the outlays had little to do with an emergency, the war or the hurricane.

***It's an election season. Since the Republicans don't have anything going for them, they figured that they could "buy" back some of the votes. I'd take the money and still not vote for them! Teach them a lesson for taking advantage of "the people!"

Usually the critics attack earmarks as wasteful, but the experience in Missippi reveals another problem, according to some local officials here. No one doubts that the state needs recovery money. The question is whether some of the earmarks for Gulf Coast projects such as Northrop's are coming at the expense of the urgent needs reflected in the abandoned streets.

'Railroad to nowhere'

Among the projects in the Senate version of the bill are $38M to repair historic Mississippi properties such as Jefferson Davis' home overlooking the beach in Biloxi; $176M to build a military retirement home in Gulfport; and the biggest project, $700M to buy an 80-mile stretch of railroad over which a new highway would be built. That project, which has become known as the "railroad to nowhere," was inserted into the bill by Lott and Mississippi's other senator, Thad Cochran (R), chairman of the Appropriations Committee. It would reroute a trainline damaged by Katrina---and already rebuilt at a cost of at least $250M.

Those projects will help jump-start the area's economic engines, say advocates, and the new highway over the railroad tracks would also improve hurricane safety because it would move east-west traffic way from an existing thoroughfare that hugs the coast.

But many local officials say those expensive projects may be pushing aside more-immediate demands from people still struggling to rebuild their lives.

"What they're saying to Northrup Grumman is 'Here---here's $140M. Go get yourself back together,'" said Bill Stallworth, a Biloxi City Council member running a relief center out of a church building here. "What we're saying is 'Look, people, we need more money to get people back in their homes. We need housing. Volunteers can't do it all.'" He said that if the volunteer building crew he uses could just hire a handful of licensed plumbers and electricians, they could increase the number of homes being rebuilt in the area from 10 a month to 100. But there isn't enough money.

The federally funded housing program offers money only to about half of the approximately 42,000 homeowners who received damage: those who owned property outside the designated "flood zone" and those who had a homeowners insurance policy but lacked flood insurance.

The state recently began accepting applications for that program. But even for that limited group, the relief often falls short of what is required to rebuild, because homeowners can receive no more than the limit of their homeowners insurance policy and many, such as Brown, were underinsured.

Dire financial straits

Eddie Favre is mayor of nearby Bat St. Louis, a small city that bore some of the worst of the storm surge. He said he found it difficult to support the purchase of the CSX rail line because of the more pressing demands he faces.

The city's property tax base has dropped from $87M to $27M because of the destruction, he said, and the city is in dire financial straits.

The railroad purchase "may be a great project, but to me there's a lot more pressing needs that the $700M could cover," he said. "I don't know how I'm going to pay our police. I don't know how we're going to pay our teachers. I don't even know if there's going to be a city anymore."

Cochran defended the railroad project, saying it is important to economically jump-start the region.

"I understand many needs remain in the Gulf Coast region and there is still much that needs to be rebuilt," he said. "We need to make sure that there will be industry and jobs for the people who are attempting to rebuild their lives, and we need to make sure we are prepared for future storms by rebuilding in a way that mitigates future damage."

***You know.....if this Cochran and Lott are up for re-election, I hope like hell that they aren't re-elected. And if the Democrats didn't put someone up against these guys, they're even stupider than the Republicans! PEOPLE COME FIRST! I often wonder when the Republicans are going to join the human-race!

The appropriations bill is intended for "emergency" spending for the war and Katrina relief.

Earmarks avoid more vigorous review and add billions to the cost of the legislation. Assistance for farmers around the country added at least $4B. But by spreading the wealth, legislators pleased constituents nationwide and built support for its passage.

But the towering forests that climb the slopes of the snow-capped Rockies just west of Lake Dillon, Colo., are a long way from Katrina's path and from Baghdad. The bill includes $30M to deal with a hungry insect called the bark beetle that is eating its way through the state's pine trees.

The insect-control funds were added on the Senate floor, with no debate and no committee consideration, after Sen. Ken Salazar (D-COLO) warned the "extended drought and insect infestations have created dangerous conditions for catastrophic fires in 2006."

And least one of the projects has been rejected twice before but has won preliminary approval as an earmark; money to alleviate the red-tide losses borne by New England shellfisherman.

Last summer, senators from the region asked colleagues to include $15M in the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill to help. That didn't work. They also requested that the Office of Management and Budget include money for shellfishermen in the next federal budget but were turned down.

$20 million for red tide

They have had more success in the current bill. The Senate approved a measure that provides $20 million to "assist shellfishermen" in New England affected by a red tide outbreak last year.

Melissa Wagoner, a spokesman for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MASS), defended the decision to include the money in an emergncy appropriations bill.

"It's an emergency for our fisherman and their families," she said, adding that "you look for a vehicle" to get the measure passed.

In Biloxi, Brown said she may receive as much as $40,000 in aid. But her house took on water up to the eaves, and the cost of repairs probably will far extend that. Last week, her son was on her front porch, trying to make repairs.

"You hear about billions of dollars coming from Washington," said Robert Brown, 58, a garbage truck driver. "But where is it?"

Source of Information: MSNBC
Story By: Peter Whoriskey
May 24, 2006
*Staff writers David A. Fahrenthold in Boston, T.T. Reid in Denver and Catherine Skipp in Miami contributed to this article.

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