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Reality Check......

Eric Cantor:

I don't think any of us ran for Congress with the idea that we could finally provide a subsidy to this industry or that, or to this community or that. Or that we would vote to continue the same federal programs and agencies that are failing our citizens and bankrupting our children and grandchildren. And I know none of us ran with the idea that we should go to Washington to congratulate a collegiate basketball team for having a good season - or feel obligated that we needed to do so - even if we happened to be a fan. Yet that is what we have been doing under the recent Democrat majority and even all too often under the previous Republican majority. Our problems have grown too immense to waste any more time. America stands at a crossroads, and the decisions we make at this very moment will determine the type of country that our children will live in. That is why we will drain the swamp rather than learning to swim with the alligators. How? We start by rethinking how time is spent and about the types of legislation that will be considered on the House floor. We start by identifying our top policy goals and committing to take concrete steps every single week to advance those goals. And we hold each other accountable with this simple question: are the actions of the House, our committees, and our Conference consistent with our principles and do they advance the nation's priorities?
It will be fascinating to see how this actually plays out.... particularly with respect to earmarks. Retiring Wisconsin Congressman David Obey ranked 5th in 2010 earmarks at $55,435,000. Local Representative Tammy Baldwin garned $8,968,000 in solo (16) 2010 earmarks and $21,636,800 in earmarks with other members.

Britain's National Medical Records Project - "No money spent on training"...

Nicholas Timmins:

“If you live in Birmingham,” declared Tony Blair when he was UK prime minister, “and you have an accident while you are, for example, in Bradford, it should be possible for your records to be instantly available to the doctors treating you.”

Not any more. Or not, at least, if the Conservatives win the next general election. For the Tories have pledged to scrap the country-wide version of the National Health Service’s electronic patient record.

Back in 2002, the idea of a full patient record, available anywhere in an emergency, was the principal political selling point for what was billed as “the biggest civilian computer project in the world”: the drive to give all 50m or so patients in England (the rest of the UK has its own arrangements) an all-singing, all-dancing electronic record. Roll-out was meant to start in 2005 and be completed by 2010.

Under a Conservative government, development of the local record – exchangeable between primary care physicians and their local hospitals – would continue. Nationally, clinicians would still be able to seek access to it when needed from the doctors who would hold it locally. But the idea of a national database of patients’ records, instantly available in an emergency from anywhere in the country, would disappear.

This may or may not matter, depending on your point of view. For many clinicians, the idea of an instantly available national record was always something of a diversion. It is access to a comprehensive record locally that is crucial for day-to-day care.

Nonetheless, the Conservatives’ decision to scrap the central database is a symbolic moment for a £12bn ($20bn, €14bn) programme that has struggled to deliver from day one. It is currently running at least four years late – and there looks to be no chance in the foreseeable future of its delivering quite what was promised.


On top of that, while there was a £6bn budget for the 10-year central contracts, no money was earmarked for training, in spite of the lesson, from the relatively few successful installations of electronic records in US hospitals, that at least as much has to be spent on changing the way staff work as is spent on the systems themselves.

2007 Farm Subsidy Database by Congressional District and a Wisconsin Earmark Update

Environmental Working Group. Wisconsin's Ron Kind ranks 37th @ 264,820,105 and Tammy Baldwin ranks 61st @ $140,993,229. Audrey Hoffer takes a useful look at Wisconsin politician's use of earmarks to further redistribute federal income taxes - otherwise known as pork:

Earmark is a dirty word. That's the tacit message of Taxpayers for Common Sense, which describes itself as a progressive nonpartisan budget watchdog. An earmark is a project in their district for which members of Congress designate funds. Earmarks often are awarded without public hearings or other congressional debate over their merits. Congress inserted 12,881 earmarks worth $18.3 billion into this year's spending bills, according to the watchdog group. While some taxpayers and their representatives decry earmarks as boondoggles and wasteful government spending, others defend them as a way to accomplish important objectives while bringing jobs and benefits to their constituents.
Taxpayers for Common Sense 2008 Earmark Database. Wisconsin political earmark (deficit) spending: Herb Kohl $153,438,700 Russ Feingold: $0 Dave Obey: $102,137,950 Steve Kagen: $24,547,700 Tammy Baldwin: $16,443,500 Tom Petri: $12,999,000 Ron Kind: $11,433,000 Gwen Moore: $7,482,300 Paul Ryan: $5,396,000 Jim Sensenbrenner: $932,000 It would be interesting to compare campaign contributions to earmark recipients. Hoffer closes with these quotes:
Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said: "It's really easy to isolate an earmark and say it's a good thing, but if we do that, we miss the overall context. It's a zero-sum game. We need to make sure we spend every penny wisely." Obey has his own reservations about the system and said last summer on the "Bill Moyers Journal" television show: "The reason I hate earmarks is because they suck everybody in. They suck them into the idea that we have to be ATM machines for our districts, and so they focus on the tiny portion of most bills that are earmarks instead of focusing on the policy that is represented by the legislation that we produce.

$1.5M Congressional Earmark to Madison's ConjuGon via Tammy Baldwin Via Lessig.

Obama's Earmarks


Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) requested federal funding for several projects as part of this year's annual appropriations process. The projects, with the amounts designated by his constituents and several national organizations were released by the senator.

Parsing Earmarks with Our Entrenched Political Class: David Obey....

John Solomon & Jeffrey Birnbaum: Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) confronted David R. Obey (D-Wis.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, on the House floor in March over this practice, noting that a spending bill then under debate contained $35 million...

On Earmark Reform

Tyler Cowen: Maybe not:Eight months after Democrats vowed to shine light on the dark art of “earmarking” money for pet projects, many lawmakers say the new visibility has only intensified the competition for projects by letting each member see exactly...

Wisconsin Congressional Earmarks: Spending our Children's Money via a Bloated Defense Bill

Taxpayers for Common Sense posted a very useful and in some ways surprising look at $3,000,000,000 in Congressional Earmarks attached to a $459,600,000,000 defense appropriation bill (not the entire defense budget). This amount is $40,000,000,000 more than last year's authorization (nice). Wisconsin congressional earmarks are lead by long time incumbent David Obey with $42,000,000, who also conveniently serves as Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. Obey's earmark methods have been criticized recently: John Solomon & Jeffrey Birnbaum writing in the Washington Post:

Democrats had complained bitterly in recent years that Republicans routinely slipped multimillion-dollar pet projects into spending bills at the end of the legislative process, preventing any chance for serious public scrutiny. Now Democrats are poised to do the same. "I don't give a damn if people criticize me or not," Obey said. Obey's spokeswoman, Kirstin Brost, said his intention is not to keep the projects secret. Rather, she said, so many requests for spending were made to the appropriations panel -- more than 30,000 this year -- that its staff has been unable to study them and decide their validity.
Here's a list of all earmarks (.xls file) attached to this defense bill. Wisconsin delegation earmarks:
  1. David Obey 42,000,000 (Unique ID 837, 854, 874, 921, 947, 1053, 1093, 1165)
  2. Tammy Baldwin $7,500,000 (Unique Id 56, 740, 1334)
  3. Steve Kagen $5,000,000 (Unique ID 496, 561, 562)
  4. Ron Kind $4,000,000 (Unique Id 1033 and 1083)
  5. Tom Petri $4,000,000 (Unique Id 782)
  6. Gwen Moore $2,000,000 (Unique Id 575, 898, 978 and 1151)
  7. Paul Ryan $0.00
  8. Jim Sensenbrenner $0.00 (shocking)
HouseDefenseEarmarks.xls. Congress's approval ratings (3%) are far below the President's (24%), which isn't saying much (Zogby Poll) Much more on local earmarks, here [RSS Feed on earmarks]

Earmarks, "Phonemarking", Congressional Excesses and Wisconsin Representative David Obey

John Solomon & Jeffrey Birnbaum: But the new majority is already skirting its own reforms. Perhaps the biggest retreat from that pledge came this week, when House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis.) told fellow lawmakers that he intends...

The Etiquette of Bribery

The Economist:GIVE people power and discretion, and whether they are grand viziers or border guards, some will use their position to enrich themselves. The problem can be big enough to hold back a country's development. One study has shown that...

American Samoa Exempt from Minimum Wage Hike?

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.Charles Hurt:House Republicans yesterday declared "something fishy" about the major tuna company in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco district being exempted from the minimum-wage increase that Democrats approved this week. "I...

On Earmarks & Lobbyists

Doonesbury. Much more on earmarks, including local activity, here....

Earmarks' Declining Political Utility?

Timothy Egan:Until this year, Richard W. Pombo, the seven-term Republican congressman from the Central Valley, had never caused much fanfare about bringing home earmarks, the special local projects that circumvent the normal budgeting process. He was far better known for...

Two Senators Stop Late 2006 Earmark Stuffed Spending Bills

John Fund:Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Jim DeMint of South Carolina have decided to take a stand against overspending by objecting to the nearly 10,000 earmarks, or member-sponsored pork projects, larded throughout the spending bills Congress is currently considering....

"As Power Shifts in New Congress, Pork May Linger"

David Kirkpatrick:Mr. Stevens, an 83-year-old Republican, and Mr. Inouye, an 82-year-old Democrat, routinely deliver to their states more money per capita in earmarks — the pet projects lawmakers insert into major spending bills — than any other state gets. This...

Tammy Baldwin on Earmarks

I received an email recently from Tammy Baldwin regarding my post on the excesses of congressional earmarks - using our checkbooks:Dear Mr. Zellmer, Thank you for contacting me regarding earmark reform. It is good to hear from you, and I...

Bringing it Home: Earmarks

John Wilke:Charles Taylor, wealthy businessman and banker, owns at least 14,000 acres of prime land in western North Carolina. He's also the local congressman. So when he steers federal dollars to his district, sometimes he helps himself, too. Last year,...

Tammy Baldwin Ranks #22 (out of 435) in Congressional District "Grants"

$28.8B over the past 6 years. Recipient Details:FY2000FY2001FY2002FY2003FY2004FY2005I never heard from Tammy's office regarding her Dane County earmarks.Kudos to the "Sunlight Foundation" for making this information available to taxpayers. I'm wondering if some of these are SBA or other...

Earmark Reform: Baldwin Votes No

Interesting spin on this vote:We are blowing away the fog of anonymity," said Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Rules Committee. "The goal is to pull back the curtain on earmarks to the public." The rule change shelves...

Drunk on Earmarks: Obey's $6.9M in ONE Bill!

Wall Street Journal:A case in point is the HHS-Education spending bill, which so far contains 1,867 earmarks at a cost of just under $500 million. Members tell us the bill has caused a mini-rebellion because two of the three largest...

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