The Senate voted 70 to 28 yesterday in favor of what the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal news sections are both calling a "jobs bill" but which might perhaps more accurately be called a spending bill. Congress's antiquated Web site makes it hard to link to this data, but the Senate and House reports that go along with the bill both disclose staggering amounts of earmarks, spending directed by individual senators and members of Congress. The University of Alabama will get $30 million for an "Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Teaching and Research Corridor" requested by a Republican senator, Richard Shelby. The New England Aquarium will get $1.25 million requested by Senator Kennedy, who is delivering for his home state even from the grave.
The Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association will get $500,000 requested by Senator Cantwell for an "Emergency Plan to Save Oyster Production on the West Coast," while Roger Williams University in Rhode Island will get $500,000 for shellfish restoration in Narragansett Bay. The Chesapeake Bay oysters are getting showered with pearls, too; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will spend $700,000 restoring native oysters there at the request of Congressmen Hoyer; Connolly (VA); Van Hollen; Norton; Scott (VA); Moran (VA); Edwards (MD); Sarbanes; Ruppersberger; Kratovil.
If you think the Jews are getting passed over, what with all the spending on non-kosher shellfish, think again; Chabad of Southern Nevada, which is a Lubavitcher hasidic group, will get $250,000 for a drug outreach program at the request of Senator Reid. Chabad houses in Los Gatos, Calif. ($200,000) and Tarzana, Calif. ($100,000) also will get federal anti-drug money, at the direction of Rep. Michael Honda and Rep. Bradley Sherman. Why not? All the religions are getting a piece of the action; $500,000 requested by Senator Mikulski of Maryland for Episcopal Community Services of Maryland to help ex-convicts into the workforce and $400,000 for Catholic Charities of New Orleans to expand its family services. The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles will get $1 million for its "Tools for Tolerance" program at the request of Senator Shelby.
The police department in Larchmont, N.Y. will get $100,000 for a new communications system, requested by Rep. Nita Lowey, while the Bronx Zoo will get $1 million to spend on the Bronx River, requested by Rep. Jose Serrano. Philadelphia will get $250,000 for a Father's Day Rally at the request of Rep. Chaka Fattah. The U.S. Soccer Foundation in Washington, D.C., will get $200,000 for a "Youth Soccer Gang Prevention Initiative."
Surely many of these programs are worthwhile, but how it creates jobs to borrow from the Chinese or from future generations of Americans, or to tax current American workers, and spend it on these programs that used to be locally or privately funded initiatives is beyond me. How the press can portray it as a job-creation bill or a jobs bill, as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal did in their headlines, is also beyond me. What I think I do understand is that the politicians approve these grants because then they get campaign contributions from the board members or lobbyists for these groups, or they get thanked in the group's newsletters, or they report the program or spending in their own newsletters to constituents, mailed at taxpayer expense using the franking privilege available to incumbents but not to challengers.
Republicans voting for this spending bill in the Senate yesterday included Senators Alexander, Bond, Brown, Cochran, Collins, Hatch, Inhofe, LeMieux, Murkowski, Snowe, Voinovich, and Wicker.