the problem with Congress pt 1 – bill riders

Everyone loves to bitch about Congress and spending.  All of this has come to light a bit more recently with the whole debt ceiling discussion.

Well, here is the problem.  It is important to understand it, so you can sound educated at cocktail parties.

The problem is ‘riders’.  Riders are spending proposals tacked on to larger bills.  They are meant to go under the radar.  For example, let’s say you wanted to pass a bill in Congress making Sept 11th ‘American Heroes’ day.  Sounds great, right?  Here is the deal, someone would tack on a 15 million dollar spending request for worm poop research in their district.  It usually works, and there are reasons for it.

One reason it works is that the government has all this money to spend… why not get it spent in your district?  Plus, you have your buddies to vote for you.  You voted for Smitty’s ‘Campaign Finance Responsibility’ which also had 3 million dollars tacked on for Moth whisker research.  So, you owe him and he owes you.

Here is another reason they work – nobody wants to go on record as having voted against the ‘American Heroes’ bill.  When it comes time for re-election (which is every 2 years for the House)… your opponent will take out a million dollars worth of ads asking why you don’t support American Heroes.  Don’t bother trying to explain to the voters that you were actually voting against 10 million of wasteful spending.  If you try, he will say something like “that is what I would expect a Muslim terrorist to say” and you are sunk.  So, you vote for it.

Then, when re-election time comes, you get to say “I brought 2,000 jobs to our district”.  That is paramount.  See, the government’s job isn’t infrastructure and safety.  It should be, but it isn’t.  The government’s job is jobs.  The business of America is business.  THIS is where all the spending comes from.  Each Senator and Congressman figures “well, if they are going to spend 300 Billion this year in the budget, I am going to make damn sure a chuck of that goes to my state!”.  In a sense, this is what you pay them for.  You pay them to fight for you and your state.

What sucks about his process is it is FAR from transparent.  The bills don’t say ‘moth poop research facility grant’.  It is tucked away on page 383, and no one reads that shit.  It wasn’t even written by your congressman, it was written by lobbyists.  But, we aren’t hear to talk about lobbyists or partisanship.  We are here to talk about riders, also known as ‘earmarks’.

Here is how we fix it.  No more earmarks, of any kind.  Not a dollar.  If you want 8 million to research moth poop in your district… cool.  Go for it.  But you can’t tuck it into the ‘Americas Heroes’ or ‘Puppies sure are cute’ bill.  You have to write your own bill that is called ‘moth poop grant request’.  Then, everyone can vote on that.  That is where all of our spending comes from, and goes to.   In this piece, I specified the House of Representatives instead of the Senate.  Do you know why I did that?  Because all spending in the Govt is controlled by the house.  The house of representatives handles the nation’s checkbook.

It is important to understand this stuff.  Really important… even if there isn’t much you can do about it.

Does this interest you?  Please let me know.  I plan to write more, this will be a series… even if for my own edification.

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