Monday, May 24, 2010
There are so many candidates for the next Poster Child one hardly knows which to choose next. Three-term Sen. Bob Bennett, our March Poster Boy, lost his Utah Republican primary last week. Our headline -- Thanks for Your Service. Good-Bye-- came true. It is our heartfelt wish that each Poster Child would be promptly retired. But, alas, the entrenched pols resist leaving their cushy positions even when at an advanced age.
We have several of the “worst of a bad lot” in a queue but when one is brought to our attention as this one was in a new documentary we had to move 18-term Minnesota Democrat, James Oberstar up to the front line. The movie has a funny premise --Greg Knapp calls on a career politician to get an earmark to build an earmark museum-- but it is dead serious as it illuminates the egregious practice of “earmarks.” The segment on Oberstar is titled “The Human Toll” because it shows how his earmarks have contributed to human tragedy. For more information on the documentary titled Bringin’ Home the Bacon, contact produces Jim and Ellen Hubbbard 571-721-8868 or email@example.com . Every taxpayer should see this film. (I would like to say that every voter should see this film but the 50% or so who vote but do not pay taxes have little reason to be concerned.)
Oberstar, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has jurisdiction over bridge maintenance. Instead of maintaining infrastructure and roads from the $500 billion Highway Bill which is really a huge collection of earmarks used by the career pols to spread around to insure their reelections. This gives the chairman enormous power which he clearly relishes and uses for his own purpose.
When asked by the Star Tribune about a disastrous bridge collapse in his own State: Q You have an initiative in mind? A “Yes. We have 597,000 bridges in America, of which 154,000 are deficient, either structurally or functionally. This is an opportunity. Instead of making Minnesota as a poster child for bridge failure, we should make this tragedy a springboard for action and attack in a focused way those most-vulnerable bridges ... (I) propose a 5-cent increase of the user fee [gas tax] for three years, generating about $8.5 billion a year…”
The taxpayers’ watchdog, Citizens Against Government Waste, named Oberstar "Porker of the Month" for his proposal for a 5-cent gas tax increase to raise $25 billion within three years for a new bridge trust fund. CAGW said that Chairman Oberstar was part of the "earmark melee" where "nearly 6,500 pork barrel projects worth more than $24 billion" were added to the 2005 bill. Rather than send funds to repair and restore bridges in his state, he added five projects totaling $14.6 million for Duluth including $3.2 million for the Munger State Trail, the longest paved recreational trail in the nation. Bringin’ Home the Bacon shows a poignant interview with a young woman, 31, who was driving home from work on a day she got a promotion. She was recently engaged to be married, happy and thinking how good life was. Moments later she suffered a broken back and crushed legs. While she thanked god that she was alive and sympathized with the dead and their families, she wondered why the money went for a teapot museum and other earmarks instead of preventative maintenance. Why indeed!
One pundit remarked at that: “Oberstar has a solution for aging interstate bridges–a new program and new tax dollars. What else is new? He wants to create a Bridge Reconstruction Trust Fund separate from the Highway Trust Fund which was created in 1956 to fund highways and bridges. Why is a separate fund needed? Politicians will misuse a new fund just as they have misused the Highway Trust Fund.…We don’t need a new program and new money. We need new people in (Congress) … There will be plenty of money…once the waste and pork is eliminated.” Amen, brother.
What makes this so sickening is that Oberstar, an avid cyclist, took money from the Highway bill to build a $24 billion bike bridge just five miles from the I-35W bridge that collapsed over the Mississippi River in his own state killing 13 –about the same amount it would have cost to repair the bridge.
He is seen in the documentary riding on the bridge in full cyclist regalia. Regarding another Oberstar earmark, the Bikes Belong Foundation estimates Oberstar’s bill would increase funding for bicycling to more than $1 billion annually. “We think it is transformational, visionary,” said their executive director. Really, is that a proper function of the U.S. government?
This from a Wall Street Journal editorial in 2007: Minnesota's transportation auditors warned as long ago as 1990 that there was a "backlog of bridges that are classified as having structural deficiencies." In 1999 engineers declared that cracks found in the bridge that collapsed were "a major concern." Bike paths were deemed a higher priority by Congress, however, including its powerful Minnesota representatives….. Mr. Oberstar sent out a press release boasting that he had "secured more than $12 million in funding" for his state in a recent federal transportation and housing bill. But $10 million of that was dedicated to a commuter rail line, $250,000 for the "Isanti Bike/Walk Trail," $200,000 to bus services in Duluth, and $150,000 for the Mesabi Academy of Kidspeace in Buhl. None of it went for bridge repair...”
In its 2009 REPORK Card, the Club for Growth noted that 211 career pols voted against all 68 bills that would have curtailed some earmarks. No surprise, our Poster Boy James Oberstar was one of them. The Club also rates Congress on economic growth issues such as tax rates, limiting FedGov spending, expanding free trade, limiting lawsuit abuse, school choice, regulatory reform, and reforming social security. Our Poster boy ranked dead last, with others, 435 out of 435 reps.
The non-partisan National Taxpayers Union (NTU) rated U.S. Representatives on their actual votes--every vote that affects taxes, spending, and debt. On a scale of zero to 100, Oberstar is in single digits which earned a failing “F” grade and their “Big Spender” designation.
Bringin’ home the bacon has been Oberstar's bottom line since he arrived in Washington in 1975. Before being elected himself, he worked for his predecessor, Rep. Blatnick, for 12 years. So, he has been there for most of his life and never had to live under his laws, taxes and regulations and he clearly never intends to. So adamantly against any reduction in FedGov spending he and another Poster Boy, John Conyers, filed a lawsuit against President Bush in the passing of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. The case (Conyers v. Bush) was, of course, dismissed. Isn’t it time Oberstar was dismissed?
The above just begins to tell how bad these career politicians can get. You won’t believe this argument he makes in defending the indefensible: http://www.redcounty.com/congressman-oberstar-it%E2%80%99s-spending-stupid
Think about how much better off the country would be if we had six -or eight- year term limits on representatives. Better late than never –Minnesota, please term limit this disgrace to MN and the country.