A Fantasy Film Trailer

I’m on John Boehner’s mailing list, perhaps because I’m a connoisseur of bad political messaging, or maybe just because I’m a glutton for punishment. As you’d imagine, it’s generally pretty awful, but this little message from the bunker stood out. Boehner’s point is to remind the few dozen people subscribing to his mailing list with serious purpose that he’s standing tall, firm and hard on earmarks.

The first thing that struck me about this piece is the “In a world…” scary movie imagery must accompany Republican pronouncements on any topic. How a quirk of the legislative process like earmarks is going to end civilization as we know it is not explained, just assumed. Earmarks are the devil, and only our orange hero and his stiff anti-earmark stance stand between us and the apocalypse.

Getting past the B-movie stuff, it’s interesting to see Boehner trying to paint horns and a tail on Harry Reid for Reid’s acceptance of the painfully obvious: earmarks are a tool for leadership to keep the caucus in line because they help win elections. With Congress doing absolutely fucking nothing, and elections approaching, the lack of earmarks makes it hard for candidates to run the tried-and-true election strategy of demonstrating that they can bring home the pork. And though I realize that we’re supposed to think that “pork barrel spending” is a bad thing, let’s not forget that a well-executed “pork barrel” is full of delicious bacon, ham and sausage.

Speaking of elections, I’m also on the mailing list of a Republican Congressman who’s in a spot of trouble, Tom Reed, NY-23. Tom’s emails to his nearest and dearest speak not a peep of any accomplishment on his part. His sole election strategy is to convince his mailing list groupies that his opponent, Martha Robertson, is the product of the unholy coupling of Lucifer and, say, Angela Davis. In any normal year, Reed’s musings about Robertson’s devil-hippie ways would be leavened with a few examples of the cold hard cash a savvy operator like Tom can bring home from DC. Instead, Reed’s campaign a one-note song that makes a Philip Glass aria sound like a Mozart divertimento in comparison. If Reed does lose his race, and there’s a good chance he will, the lack of a couple of solid earmarks will be part of the reason why.

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52 replies
  1. 1
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    I wonder why somebody doesn’t point out that because Repubs are SOOOOO against Congress critters deciding where that money they appropriate gets spent, Obama gets to make that decision for them?

  2. 2
    Hagiographer says:

    I’m not sure I totally understand the Philip Glass comparison, but here’s a Glass aria that I listen to whenever I’m upset by the news of the day (Satyagraha; Act 1, scene 1):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOJwYaInw10

  3. 3
    Walker says:

    Reed even supported the FAA Tower closure here in Ithaca (which never happened after all), which did not earn him any fans from the conservative people in Tompkins County.

  4. 4
    heckblazer says:

    @Hagiographer: @Hagiographer: I imagine it’s just a general comment on the music of Phillip Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass.

  5. 5
    Cacti says:

    The righteous indignation over earmarks has always escaped me. Getting federal funds appropriated to your home district is expected of every representative is it not?

    I guess it’s “welfare bum” logic on larger scale. The shiftless layabouts of the Democratic district prevent our worthy Republican district from getting needed funds.

  6. 6
    NonyNony says:

    @Walker:

    Reed even supported the FAA Tower closure here in Ithaca (which never happened after all), which did not earn him any fans from the conservative people in Tompkins County.

    The mark of a Republican who has drunk the kool-aid and thinks that other Republicans fiercely believe in the horseshit that the GOP sells.

    Most rural Republicans vote Republican for cultural issues and because they don’t see the direct linkage between the government and their day-to-day lives. You start shutting down services that they use, and they get pissed off.

    (You want to know what pisses off folks in the rural areas where my family still lives? Any agitation against the Post Office. They love the Post Office. Not only do they know the people who work for the Post Office personally, they can’t get deliveries via UPS or FedEx because of where they live. But the Post Office delivers. And these days since they mostly shop via Amazon, they need those deliveries. And if you start talking about cutting deliveries or shutting down offices – which would cut deliveries – they start to get awful twitchy about it…)

  7. 7

    Does anyone who wasn’t politically shaped by the Reagan years care about earmarks anymore? The Tea Party still thinks they mean ‘giving blacks our money’, but they also think Boehner is a total earmark-loving traitor.

  8. 8
    CONGRATULATIONS! says:

    This from the guy who passed out lobbyist checks on the House floor before a vote.

    Yeah, he’s a real patriot, looking out for the nation’s best interests. Well, some of the nation, anyway. The part with money.

  9. 9
    NonyNony says:

    @Cacti:

    The righteous indignation over earmarks has always escaped me. Getting federal funds appropriated to your home district is expected of every representative is it not?

    Republican pols have lost the plot.

    “Pork Barrel Spending” is what the other guy does. YOU are supposed to bring back “necessary funds for your district.”

    Spending the other guy does is Waste Fraud And Abuse. Spending that you do for your constituents is Sound Budgetary Principles.

    (I swear to Grod some of these guys heard the dog whistles in the 80s but didn’t understand that when Republicans were campaigning against people “sucking at the government teat” they were making racial dogwhistles. They lost the subtext and are just going by the text. )

  10. 10
    Cacti says:

    @NonyNony:

    Most rural Republicans vote Republican for cultural issues and because they don’t see the direct linkage between the government and their day-to-day lives. You start shutting down services that they use, and they get pissed off.

    Most rural Republicans don’t remember that prior to FDR and LBJ passing a raft of programs for their explicit benefit, rural America was a third world slice of dirt roads, outhouses, preventable diseases, and lack of electric lighting.

  11. 11
    CONGRATULATIONS! says:

    Earmarks. That’s where ungrateful black people and/or California residents command Jackbooted Federal Thugs to steal money from hardworking American patriots and give it to shiftless unemployed Obama voters, right?

  12. 12
    Cheeseman says:

    He says “highway bill, no earmarks”. What highway bill? I sure wish there were some infrastructure bills coming out of Congress.

  13. 13
    Rob in CT says:

    I swear to Grod some of these guys heard the dog whistles in the 80s but didn’t understand that when Republicans were campaigning against people “sucking at the government teat” they were making racial dogwhistles. They lost the subtext and are just going by the text.

    Progress!

  14. 14
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    His sole election strategy is to convince his mailing list groupies that his opponent, Martha Robertson, is the product of the unholy coupling of Lucifer and, say, Angela Davis

    My mother is normally pretty politically oblivious but since she is a Clay Akin fan (to put it mildly) she has been following it this year and that’s been her comment – even in the primaries with each other the only thing the Republicans have is paint the other guy as the devil incarnate.

    Pretty funny to think it was Ron Paul that got the GOP on the no earmarks trip.

  15. 15
    karen says:

    Boehener knows the rule that the Tea Party members don’t: What you bring home to your constituants (sp) is necessary. What others bring home is pork. If they don’t bring home the “funds” the folks back home will be pissed.

  16. 16
    Morzer says:

    @heckblazer:

    There’s an awful lot of saccharine Mozart out there as well.

    Occupy Mozart! Free Philip Glass! Burn the Reichsta*cough**cough*

    BENGHAZI!!!

  17. 17
    NotMax says:

    Don’t sass the Glass.

  18. 18

    @NonyNony:
    I think there’s an element of this. They became true believers. The racism is still there, but over the past forty years they’ve absorbed that the slogans must also be true. Originally, ‘government should be drowned in a bathtub’ meant ‘a lot of your tax money is going to blacks’. Now they’ve absorbed it, and they think all their tax money is going to blacks and there’s nothing the government gives them legitimately. This must be true, because a black man is president and that could only happen if the deck is stacked against whites at every level.

  19. 19
    Xantar says:

    @Cacti:

    Back before I got more educated about the issue, I used to inveigh against pork barrel spending because I was always hearing in the news about some government project or other that was wasting hundreds of millions of dollars to no apparent benefit. Actually, a lot of them were military weapons programs. And the explanation given for why this wasteful program still exists was always, “This program is being protected by Senator So-and-So who is chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee.” I certainly didn’t oppose earmarks because of racism. I’m a racial minority myself, and most of the wasteful programs I was hearing about were not necessarily aimed at the poor or minority populations.

    Some pork really is graft, corruption, and wasteful spending. And getting rid of it is one of those things, like term limits for public office, that seems like a good idea for the first five minutes that you think about it.

  20. 20
    japa21 says:

    @Xantar: I agree with your assessment. In Illinois, the GOP is putting on a major push concerning term limits and many candidates from governor on down are using it as a major part of their pitch.

    And it is one of those things that have a certain initial appeal. The problem is that most people don’t think about it for more than 5 minutes and realize how bad an idea it is.

  21. 21
    JasonF says:

    It infuriates me to no end that this asshole is simultaneously crusading against earmarks — i.e., Congressional declarations of how appropriated money should be spent — and against executive overreach.

  22. 22
    Elizabelle says:

    @NonyNony: You wrote:

    They love the Post Office. Not only do they know the people who work for the Post Office personally, they can’t get deliveries via UPS or FedEx because of where they live. But the Post Office delivers. And these days since they mostly shop via Amazon, they need those deliveries. And if you start talking about cutting deliveries or shutting down offices – which would cut deliveries – they start to get awful twitchy about it…)

    WaPost Sunday: U.S. Postal Service losing tens of millions annually subsidizing shipments to Alaska

    A Ted Stevens special. Complete with sweet deals for regional airlines.

    Although a lifeline to rural Alaska. Program’s now in Darrel Issa’s crosshairs.

    Under a federal program exclusive to Alaska, the Postal Service is responsible for shipping more than 100 million pounds a year of apples, frozen meat, dog food, diapers and countless other consumer items to off-road villages in the sparsely populated outposts known as the bush. Over three decades acting as freight forwarder, the agency has lost $2.5 billion.

    In many ways, the Alaska Bypass, as it’s called, keeps Hooper Bay and 100 other isolated villages in rural Alaska afloat. But groceries do not come cheap for Royala Bell, 43, and her neighbors, most of whom, like her family, survive on food stamps and federal subsidies.

    “I think the food is too, too high,” the slight Yupik woman said of the prices at the Alaska Commercial store here, stretching her hands wide like an accordion. “It takes about $200 for a little tiny amount of groceries.”

    Rural Alaskans are not the only ones paying a steep price. The system cost the Postal Service $77.5 million last year, agency officials said, with ordinary stamp-buying customers covering the tab, while a long line of commercial interests here benefited, from the airline and shipping industries to rural grocery chains.

    Pork on ice. Although these communities are inaccessible by road.

  23. 23
    Roger Moore says:

    @Cacti:

    The righteous indignation over earmarks has always escaped me.

    I assume there are several things going on:

    1) People confuse earmarks with porkbarrel spending. It’s an easy mistake to make.
    2) It’s really hard to understand the size and scope of federal spending. People hear about eleventy billion dollars being spent on earmarks and think it’s blowing up the deficit when it actually represents a tiny fraction of overall spending.
    3) Earmarks help leadership to keep the back benchers in line, which is exactly what the teabaggers hate.

  24. 24
    MattF says:

    Boehner’s only serious threat to his caucus is “If you don’t do what I want, I’ll cry.”

  25. 25
    C.V. Danes says:

    Pork helps keep the economy going, even those bridges to nowhere.

  26. 26
    Roger Moore says:

    @NonyNony:

    I swear to Grod some of these guys heard the dog whistles in the 80s but didn’t understand that when Republicans were campaigning against people “sucking at the government teat” they were making racial dogwhistles. They lost the subtext and are just going by the text.

    Pete Peterson and the other billionaire deficit scolds couldn’t be happier at this development.

  27. 27

    @Cacti:

    The righteous indignation over earmarks has always escaped me. Getting federal funds appropriated to your home district is expected of every representative is it not?

    It leads to bad outcomes in certain non-trivial cases. Having the new bomber built in all 50 states is not something to be proud of. It means your supply chain is a mess, the costs to move parts around exorbitant, and the project prone to errors because communicating between engineering teams is time consuming and expensive. Nobody would choose to build something this way, and yet we choose to build everything this way. A friend of ours is an industrial engineer for a big defense subcontractor whose job it is to be the glue between the bazillion of far flung subcontractors in the southwest, many chosen because they were in somebody’s district. So you have two parts that need to work closely together being assembled 1000 miles apart. You have a team of 6-figure engineers (because industrial engineers are scarce in this country) flying back and forth making sure the teams talk to each other and ensuring that decisions on the assembly of part A don’t screw up the assembly of part B. That team doesn’t design anything build anything, etc. They just try and make sure that two parts that should have been built 30 feet from each other still work right, and make sure the that subcontractor B is getting parts from A on time so they can can assemble it and ship it to C on the other side of the country. And the shipping companies love the shit out of this system, because they’re making money hand over fist for doing a job that never should have needed to be done – and to DOD and top secret specs to boot. And because these are parts for the military, each one needs to be tracked in meticulous detail, none can get lost, etc.

    And earmarks and pork barrel are one in the same. What happens when the next defense appropriation bill comes up and there’s nothing for Wyoming? Well, that rep needs to get something for their vote since votes and earmarks are now linked for everyone, so we give them bus stops, or move some IRS processing center there, or whatnot, just to keep things fair among those voting.

    There are earmarks that don’t lead to this behavior, but once you spin up the unbelievably massive defense and highway and farm appropriation bills, this is pretty much all you get out of them to the tune of billions and billions of wasted dollars. The bridge to nowhere was an earmark project. $320M to build a bridge for 9,000 people ($36,000 per person) so they could get to the airport more easily. That was carved out of the transportation bill as 3 separate earmarks in exchange for votes.

  28. 28
    Seanly says:

    @NonyNony:

    Agree totally.

    If we had Prez Romney or the 2nd term of Prez McCain, earmarks & deficit spending would be no big issue. We’d have raised the federal gas tax by $0.25/gal and would be investing in our infrastructure (with a big tax break on billionaires to ‘offset’ the gas tax). But no, right now any money spent on any infrastructure is blatant fraud and waste.

  29. 29
    srv says:

    Ah, I see, you want pork to prop up the democrats chances as Obama’s economic master plan takes hold:

    FORD MOTOR: Sales in June tumbled 5.8% from a year ago, to 222,064.

    Sales for Volkswagen’s mainstream VW brand plummeted 22% in June

  30. 30
    Belafon says:

    @srv: You mean his dastardly plan to cut unemployment and SNAP benefits so that we’ll turn into Kansas?

  31. 31
    boatboy_srq says:

    @NotMax: But the Glass always sounds half full.

  32. 32

    @Roger Moore: The problem is that we don’t need to take the federal revenues and distribute them evenly to all 435 districts. Alaska doesn’t need $320M for a bridge for 9,000 people when NYC has bridges travelled by 300,000 people a day that are in disrepair. Those two reps may carry equal votes, but they don’t represent equal tax bases nor do they represent equal needs for the nation.

  33. 33
    Seanly says:

    @⚽️ Martin:

    Sorry to double post –
    To expand on Martin’s post about earmarks – the majority of transportation funding isn’t earmarked or targeted. Most money goes to the states which work with local FHWA officials to develop STIP’s (state transportation improvement plans). Sometimes, large projects will get a boost by being an earmark. Often it might be just a study or the environmental documentation to get the ball rolling – usually it is then argued that you’ve already spent a third of the money for the design or you’ve got the environmental clearance, etc. The STIP’s have prioritized projects – the means of the prioritizing are different in each state and of course, games can still be played.
    I work for a consulting engineering firm and my area of expertise is transportation related. So, yes, I have a vested interest in seeing a new highway funding bill. However, we do need to do the work (poor roads increase user costs in increased driving times & maintenance costs). We’re down to only 2% of GDP spent to maintain our roads and they show it.
    Also, bringing home transportation projects is very effective for representatives because something is built which people can then use.
    EDIT: there’s more than enough work to do & more than enough idle engineers, cadd techs & surveyors, etc. that we don’t need boondoggles like bridges to nowhere. I coudl spend the rest of my career just fixing & replacing bridges.

  34. 34
    Jim pharo says:

    let’s not forget that a well-executed “pork barrel” is full of delicious bacon, ham and sausage

    Let’s not forget that in thinking about earmarks, we’re not talking about incremental pork, just taking pork from the people the bureaucracy picked to give it to, and giving it instead to the person the legislator picked.

    Pork pie doesn’t get bigger depending on who is cutting it.

  35. 35
    srv says:

    @Belafon: He could at least spend some pork on some new Fords, ISIS particularly likes the F350.

  36. 36
    Anya says:

    According to my mother-in-law, there was a time when the Republican Party wasn’t run by “morally corrupt men,” and the party was not taken over by “men obsessed with controlling women’s body.” The thing is I am 26-years old and I only know this party.

    Can I ask a question, was Anthony Kennedy always this bad or is he one of the victims of the election of Barack Obama? There are a lot of white men who lost their shit after November 2008. Is he one of them?

    I ask that because I keep hearing about how reasonable he was and how much he valued individual rights and freedom. It’s hard to reconcile that with Kennedy’s recent decisions.

  37. 37
    J.D. Rhoades says:

    It’s an old adage: Pork is money spent in someone else’s district.

  38. 38
    japa21 says:

    @srv: Not sure what your point is.

    General Motors on Tuesday reported its best June sales since 2007…

    Specially since Obama’s economic master plan has never been allowed to actually be in effect.

  39. 39
    Epicurus says:

    @japa21: srv is a well-known troll on these boards. Please feel free to ignore any spittle-flecked comments left here under that name. And stop giving them attention, it’s what they want.

  40. 40
    raven says:

    @Anya: My brother had him for a prof in law school and thought, at the time, he was pretty reasonable.

  41. 41
    srv says:

    @japa21: Up 1% on 25 million recalls? Must have been Obama’s mgmt team designing those cars.

    @Anya: Kennedy is a closet freedom loving libertarian, so he won’t go until socalist Obama does.

  42. 42
    japa21 says:

    @Epicurus: Yeah, I should know better. His response to me proves it. I think, though, they are more feces-flecked than spittle-flecked.

  43. 43
    Morzer says:

    @Epicurus:

    I blame Obama for not rounding up these worthless trolls and making them get a job like Real Americans.

  44. 44
    Anya says:

    @raven: @srv: He’s supposed to be the court’s swing vote but since Obama’s election he’s been a solid wingnut vote. I just don’t get how can someone change that drastically.

  45. 45
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @Anya: Kennedy’s reputation comes largely from the fact that he has sided with the liberals on gay rights decisions and one or two other things.

    ETA: Also some of his votes from back when O’Connor was on the Court and he was a part of small moderate conservative faction of two. With O’C gone, it looks like there is no one to stiffen his spine.

  46. 46
    JPL says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name): When Sandra Day O’Connor was on the bench, she seemed to have influence over Kennedy’s votes concerning social issues. Since she left, he sides more and more with the conservatives. He must have been lonely having lunch alone.

  47. 47
    Roger Moore says:

    @Anya:
    There seem to be a lot of people who acted fairly reasonable right up until one of Those People got elected President. I also wonder about both Kennedy and Thomas how much age is starting to factor in. Judges want to act as if age doesn’t affect them because their job isn’t physical, but age can affect one’s mental processes, too.

  48. 48
    Commenting at Balloon Juice since 1937 says:

    unholy coupling of Lucifer and, say, Angela Davis

    I love a chick with a ‘fro.

  49. 49
    Morzer says:

    @Commenting at Balloon Juice since 1937:

    And horns and a tail! Oooh la la!

  50. 50
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    @Anya:

    Can I ask a question, was Anthony Kennedy always this bad or is he one of the victims of the election of Barack Obama? There are a lot of white men who lost their shit after November 2008. Is he one of them?

    He is merely doing what he was appointed to the court to do like Scalia, Thomas and Roberts; protect the corporate personhood myth.

  51. 51
    LT says:

    The politics of hysteria is the only card the GOP has left to play. Where the democratic party lost its touch in wielding effective political rhetoric (circa November 1980), the republican party has lost touch with reality. The truth inherent in the old bromide “.. you can’t fool all the people, all the time” is applicable in its case. God grant a new generation of democrats the voice to exploit and extinguish the bastards.

  52. 52
    elm says:

    @Anya:

    Can I ask a question, was Anthony Kennedy always this bad or is he one of the victims of the election of Barack Obama? There are a lot of white men who lost their shit after November 2008. Is he one of them?

    I don’t think Kennedy has changed especially much. He was never all that good, just the lesser evil amongst the right wing. And everybody looks good compared to the other ghouls on that side.

    He refused to completely gut Roe v. Wade long ago, but he was on the wrong side of Bush v. Gore and, of course, Citizen’s United.

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