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Posts Tagged ‘Boondoggles’

Free Parking AND a job? What a deal!

February 17, 2009 Leave a comment

From DC Republican, a look at some of the benefits that Congress gets in exchange for disregarding fate of future generations of America:

Free parking: Not only do members of Congress receive parking on Capitol Hill, but they also receive free (prime) private parking spots at the two nearby airport, Reagan National and Dulles airport.

Salary: The current salary for a member of Congress is $174,000. However, Congress has the authority to raise their salary as they wish, without having to hold a vote. It’s also interesting to note that during the great depression, members of Congress voluntarily took a pay cut… I somehow don’t think we’ll see that happen these days.

Perks from Lobbyists: Despite a slew of ethics regulations regarding gifts from lobbyists, Members of Congress are still able to use their lobbyist tiesto get into events that regular people simply do not have access to. For example, if a Member of Congress wanted a prime ticket to a sold-out event, he could still get that ticket from lobbyists he’s close with, as long as the face value of the ticket is reimbursed by the Member. However, this money doesn’t have to come from the Member’s pocket, but instead can come from the usually deep campaign account, which usually contains money from lobbyists and their associated PACs.

Public Service, eh?

February 9, 2009 Leave a comment

From Forbes, word that public service careers are perhaps a bit more lucrative than we thought:

In public-sector America things just get better and better. The common presumption is that public servants forgo high wages in exchange for safe jobs and benefits. The reality is they get all three. State and local government workers get paid an average of $25.30 an hour, which is 33% higher than the private sector’s $19, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Throw in pensions and other benefits and the gap widens to 42% …

I realize that government workers shouldn’t work for peanuts, as should no worker; however, government workers must also keep the perspective that their wages are paid for by the labor of others. Yes, certainly not all employees in the private sector pay directly for their salary–however, the profit motive drives people to work. Without that in government, there seems to be no inspiration to work hard and innovate. However, in taking a government job, there should be a realization that the job would not exist without the consent and work of the people (although often “consent” is rather flimsy, but that is a discussion for another day). The services government workers provide are often times vital to the proper functioning of society, but people work hard to bring in the money that pays for these services, and in my view they deserve to have the government keep salaries balanced to the money brought in by private sector workers. Yet many government workers seem to suffer from the same “me me me” mentality that often plagues people in the public sector. 

Perhaps our public servants and elected officials need a civics lesson to remind them just why they are there?

H/T The Corner

Obenshain versus the Turtles

February 9, 2009 Leave a comment

I’ve been meaning to write about the Senate’s pending efforts to name the Eastern Box Turtle as the official state reptile. However, I’m glad I waited, as a funny thing happened on the way to the bill’s passage. 

When I first saw that the Senate was considering the measure, I reverted to my usual misanthropic and felt that, in the midst of one of the deepest recessions in American history, that such matters really had no business being considered. However, the RTD made the opportunity so just so darn irresistible:

The legislation describes the turtle as “a most useful creature serving to control harmful insects and acting as one of nature’s clean-up crew helping to preserve the purity and beauty of Virginia’s waters.”

The turtle would join a powerhouse lineup of “official” Virginia creatures that includes the brook trout (official fish), the tiger swallowtail butterfly (official insect) and the Virginia big-eared bat (official bat).

That didn’t placate me, but I figured that no one would be interested because, after all, such measures are “tradition” and a “fun diversion.” At worst I would be considered an ogre because the legislation was probably dreamt up by some first graders who wanted to learn how a bill becomes a law, no matter how inane. So I scuttled the post. 

However, it appears that at least fifteen Senators agree with me that this is a bad idea. Likely for varying reasons, as some may prefer a cooler animal such as the Iguana (which doesn’t live in Virginia in so far as I know, but still wicked awesome). Still, at least one Senator spoke out for sanity: our very own Senator Mark Obenshain. From his weekly update:

No, I don’t object to turtles; I object to wasting time on trivialities while seriously contemplating pushing back the budget for some later date. I have nothing against the Eastern Box, but I do have a problem with the amount of time we’ve spent this session on bills that have nothing to do with making our Commonwealth a better place, to say nothing of getting our economy back on track. This bill is just one isolated, albeit absurd (okay, even slightly amusing), example of a larger trend.

Right on. I don’t think average citizens understand just how much frivolous “legislating” goes on in Richmond. The House will approve over 248 resolutions; the Senate, “just” 159. As for state symbols and songs, the numbers this year are relatively small. Of the 1,049 bills originating in the House, six (about half a percent) had to do with such measures, though some of this may have had to do ; of the Senate’s 749, 3 were about designations (about four tenths of a percent). Relatively small percentages–but remember that each and every one of these bills and resolutions was written by a professional, paid with your tax dollars. And I limited my research to state designations–who knows what ridiculousness could be found throughout the stack of bills. I’m not saying that legislators should not be allowed to discuss things if they so please–it is their right, ultimately, to set their own boundaries. I am saying, however, that representatives should think about just why they are in Richmond–and that the people back home should home them accountable when legislators overstep their authority and responsibility. To use Senator Obenshain’s words:

You know, we have a state shell as well. Increasingly, though, I think our state shell should be the one some in government are hiding under they we wait for the economic ill winds to pass us by. One of the counties I represent has an 11.7% unemployment rate, and they’re not alone. People are struggling to make ends meet across the Commonwealth, and they need the General Assembly to redouble its efforts to promote economic recovery, not ignore the problem in the hopes that it will just go away.

Another Stimulus Tool

February 5, 2009 Leave a comment

From Reason.com’s twitter feed, another tool for average citizens to be engaged (well, as engaged as Congressional Democrats will let us be) with the stimulus bill. Here, you can vote for and comment on the urgency of the various stimulus projects. Each project has its own page and lists the cost and amount of jobs that will be created. Some “favorites” from those using the site:

All worthy projects, but worth putting up to two generations of Americans another trillion dollars in debt?

Bank of America Blowing Your Tax Dollars on Super Bowl, ACORN

February 3, 2009 Leave a comment

From the Business and Media Instittue

But, this latest indiscretion has gone unnoticed by the media – a donation in the amount of $2 million to the ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) Housing Corporation of Chicago, according to a document posted on Bank of America corporate philanthropy Web site – which shows the bank had given the total amount in grant money from October 2007 through June 2009.

…..

ACORN has been associated with cases of voter fraudaccounting improprieties and has lobbied for obligatory housing assistance from the federal government for home borrowers that got in over their heads with recent mortgage woes.

The media have not only been eager to attack banks like Bank of America for their corporate expenditures and compensation, they have found other ways to go after these institutions. As ABC investigative correspondent Brian Ross pointed out – with his usual knack for finding lavish spending by corporate entities – Bank of America also sponsored a Super Bowl party at a 5-Star Resort in Palm Beach, Fla.

So lemme get this straight: Things are so bad at Bank of America that they need $20 billion of taxpayer dollars to stay afloat, but not so bad that they need to cancel their Superbowl Party and not give to groups who have had multiple employees arrested for voter fraud? 

Well, at least ACORN won’t be getting any money directly from the government…..oh wait, they might be eligible after all

I realize that Bank of America is under pressure here to help out people whose homes have been foreclosed and ACORN has the momentum right now, despite their dubious political activities, but being principled never goes of style. 

H/T VIrginia Virtucon

Hooray for Hollywood

February 2, 2009 Leave a comment

From the National Journal, word that Democrats will by helping out the “struggling” film industry:

The Senate bill includes a tax break worth up to $246 million over 11 years for investors in bigger-budget movie projects that don’t necessarily qualify for incentives currently. The provision is backed by firms like the Walt Disney Co., and the industry trade group the Motion Picture Association of America, according to aides and lobbyists.

….

But a problem arises for pictures that cost $30 million or more, which the option to instead use bonus depreciation attempts to resolve.

It probably wouldn’t benefit blockbusters that take years to produce, a lobbyist said, given that, to benefit, a firm’s asset must be placed in service — hitting the theaters or video market — during that time.

Of course, a tax break is a bit better than direct use of our tax dollars, as in the case of part of the $4 billion that went to Chrysler back during the fall being used for product placement in the upcoming Terminator film. From worldcarfans.com:

The American automaker recently received $4 billion in a taxpayer-funded government bailout. Chrysler was reportedly on the verge of bankruptcy, and would not have been able to pay their suppliers without the loan. Still in a dangerous position, the privately-owned company cut over a third of their employees.

Chrysler was shut out of many product placement deals recently. General Motors inked a deal with The Transformers live-action films. Ford got in on the action with theirKnight Rider deal, featuring a Mustang, Flex, and F-150.

In completely unrelated news, the top 10 films last week grossed a combined $96 million, and revenues are up over 20% for January last year, while attendence was up 16%.

Poor, poor Hollywood.

Must-Listen: Randy Forbes on the Stimulus

January 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Congressman Randy Forbes lays out his opposition to the Stimulus, and notes that he has been one of just 16 Republicans to vote against every stimulus or bailout package that has come through. Listen here.