It’s come to mean other things now, but ‘Stand and deliver’ was the term bandits used when they dropped a tree across the path to stop and rob a stage coach at pistol-point.
In a modern-day re-enactment, Senate bandits like Trent Lott have thrown the log of ‘earmarks’ across the road to approval of an emergency spending bill for the Iraq war and hurricane recovery. Standing around the coach that represents this particular piece of banditry, swords and guns drawn, Lott and his lot have already shaken an additional $14.3 billion from the public pocket, but it’s not enough.
The bill itself is a sad necessity, the whole $92.2 billion the President asked for.
This fiscal disaster is born partially out of Iraq War costs run wild, as ‘reconstruction contractors’ are holed up in the Green Zone, afraid to reconstruct, some of them billing $100,000 a day on stand-by. Halliburton has become the ‘scandal du jour,’ not even causing news-blips any longer as its hands are found in yet another, and another and another cookie-jar. War profiteering was once a crime. The Iraqi oil that was going to ‘pay for their own reconstruction’ as Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz repeatedly promised, seems not to have materialized.
The rest of the dough is to be pounded into a similar rat-hole on the Gulf Coast, only this time the enemy is not insurgents but in-surges, as in the increasingly stormy Gulf of Mexico flows into town during hurrican season. Congress hopes to float this loan before the current hurricane season begins in 45 days and proves them idiots. As Congress approves money, insurers are quietly stealing away to higher ground.
But getting back to the Senate, they're in town this week, heads in the trough, because this war and this hurricane have not been funded. Funded? They should have been funded?
Uh-huh. That’s the time-honored way of running a fiscally responsible government. Congress takes in various excise and income taxes to run things. Like your own budget at home, when an extraordinary expense comes along, something that’s not planned for, it has to be accommodated. Usually, a family
- Takes it out of savings
- Borrows from a friend
- Puts it on a credit-card
- Or goes to the bank for a loan
But Congress, in its wisdom, failed to fund the most expensive war we have ever fought and (ditto) failed to fund the most expensive natural disaster the nation has ever known. That’s what is known as going two for two and it’s not always a sports metaphor.
Because this country has no savings, it borrows from friend China. Because it has no discipline, it puts what's left on a credit-card to be paid off by future unnamed and (apparently) uninformed citizens. You would think these citizens would want to know ‘how much,’ but it’s been unpolitic to tell them. And, they're busy with other things, they never asked.
So, I will tell them.
As of April 18, 2006, the total U.S. Government debt was $8.4 trillion. For a family of four, that’s a 'mortgage' to pay off of $129,200.00 and no house. If you’re a single guy or gal just out of college, stick $32,300.00 onto your college loan and credit-cards to see just how long it will be before you can pop for a new car. That's only current total. Long-term total, the kind that comes down on the grandkids is five times that much.
But I digress. That number I just gave you was before Congress stopped this latest stage coach at gunpoint. Put off buying that new laptop, ‘cause you owe another $330 for Bush’s request, plus $37 for what he didn’t ask for and maybe an additional $25-50 for Trent and his Casino buddies before everyone sheaths their swords and puts their guns away.
Of course, that's all in addition to your regular taxes.
The banditry, nearly all of it by those who have mid-term elections coming up and are desperate to bring home someone’s, anyone’s bacon, include
- Four thousand million to ranchers and farmers (Sen. Conrad Burns, MT) Note: 2005 farm-sector cash receipts were the second-highest in history.
- $794 million for highways, less than a year after a $24 billion highway package.
- Lott’s $700 million already-repaired railroad.
- $15 million to promote seafood.
- $176 million to repair a retirement home.
- $500 million to a defense contractor for storm damage (Trent Lott again)
- $11.3 million for a river bank in California.
- $27 million for the new U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, hundreds of millions already over budget.
- Fifteen hundred million to farmers to offset higher natural gas prices, while you and I scrape by.
Wipe the blood off, you have just been the victim of an earmark. The term ‘earmark’ originated because farmers ear marked their cattle and hogs, either by punching out a notch or wiring in an actual tag. Painful and a little bit bloody, but they allowed a cattleman to know, for sure, which cow or hog was his. Cattlemen and Congressmen still do this.
The question is, whose hog are you?