Now that the behemoth “stimulus” package has been reconciled in conference it appears that we, the taxpayers, will be saddled with financing a superfluity of special interest projects and entitlements. From programs that serve to combat sexually transmitted diseases and facilitate smoking prevention initiatives to the $30 million earmarked – yes, earmarked – for a wetlands restoration project meant to protect the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse, We the People have been bamboozled into financing the biggest raid on the US Treasury in the history of our nation. But before we grab the pitchforks and the torches and start marching down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House in protest, we should consider the facts surrounding the crafting of this abysmal piece of pork legislation.
The American citizenry has employed the convenient practice of blaming the President of the United States for all things enacted or ignored by government. This practice has been facilitated by the mainstream media for decades, if not since the birth of our nation. It can be argued that we have fallen into this practice primarily because it is easier and less time consuming than keeping tabs on each of the 535 voting members of Congress. But in taking the less engaged and less accurate approach to holding our elected officials accountable we perpetuate the misconception that the Executive Branch is all powerful. In fact, it is the Legislative Branch of our government that is charged – exclusively – with the tasks of finance and legislation.
Article I, Section 1 of the US Constitution reads, in part:
“All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.”
With this entry into the Charters of Freedom, the Framers entrusted the sole authority to craft, amend and enact legislation. While the Executive Branch does indeed have the luxury of the bully pulpit, in the end the only roll the President has, with regard to legislation, is to either sign the bill into law or veto the bill. A veto sends it back to the Legislative Branch to either survive through a vote to override the presidential veto or be cast off into oblivion.
Article I, Section 7 reads, in part:
“All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.”
And Article I, Section 8 states, in part:
“The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises...”
With this the Framers ensconced the sole authority over the legislation of issues of revenue to the Legislative Branch.
This clarity of constitutional literacy understood, my emphasis on the constitutional actualities should in no way be misconstrued to imply support or defense for President Obama's efforts in this debacle. His advocacy for this unprecedented raid on the US Treasury – through the efforts of his Chicago Democrat machine enforcer, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel – makes him culpable in its enactment, as does his signing it into law. But the true ownership of this appallingly irresponsible piece of legislation rests with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).
In defense of my consternation for this piece of special interest legislation one need only look honestly at what is included in the bill. Here is a partial yet disturbing list of what can only be seen as special interest projects offered up in HR1:
▪ $650 million for digital TV coupons
▪ $50 million in funding for the National Endowment of the Arts
▪ $200 million for the National Mall, including repairs of grass destroyed during the inauguration festivities
▪ $400 million for "National Treasures"
▪ $99,600 for doorbells in Laurel, MS
▪ $500,000 for a dog park in Chula Vista, CA
▪ $3,450,000 to "rehabilitate" sidewalks in Alexandria, VA
▪ $600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees
▪ $150 million for Smithsonian museum facilities
▪ $75 million for "smoking cessation activities"
▪ $200 million for public computer centers at community colleges
▪ $6 billion to turn federal buildings into "green" buildings
▪ $850 million for Amtrak
▪ $100 million for reducing the hazard of lead-based paint
▪ $110 million to the Farm Service Agency to upgrade computer systems
And my favorite – and, evidently, Nancy Pelosi's as well – $30 million for a wetlands restoration project in the San Francisco Bay Area to protect, among other things, the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse. Not coincidentally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has championed preserving the mouse's habitat in the past.
The larger point I am trying to make – aside from the fact that this piece of legislation is as much a stimulus bill as my electric bill – is that because of our collective habit of taking the less engaged avenue in governmental oversight, in attributing blame for this act of pure politics over good government, we will allow the mainstream media and political operatives to place the onus of either congratulations or condemnation onto President Obama. While the president does deserve a portion of the condemnation that will surly rise once our citizenry wakes-up from their “hope & change stupor” only to realize they have been manipulated into believing that installing doorbells in Mississippi and protecting the salt marsh field mouse will somehow save the economy, the true ownership of this massive fraud rests with Congress. This is the Pelosi-Reid Special Interest Appropriations Bill, not an economic stimulus package.
If we are ever to affect an ideological revolution in this country, where politics is banished from the halls of Congress and good government trumps politics, we must first and foremost abandon the practice of superficial oversight of our elected officials. In truth, We the People have abdicated this constitutionally mandated oversight in our political apathy. This abdication is antithetical to the intentions of our Founders and Framers for they envisioned a citizenry that understood that in our ownership of the US Constitution and the Charters of Freedom – and it is we who own these brilliant documents, not the government – we literally gave birth to the government, our covenant (The Charters of Freedom) limiting the power of government, not empowering it above the oversight of the citizenry.
If we are to take back control of our runaway government – both in our state houses and in Washington DC – we must abdicate our apathy, not our responsibility. We need to do this for future generations otherwise the promise of that shining city on the hill and the light of liberty will become the things of history books...just like the greatness of the Roman Empire.
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Frank Salvato is the executive director and director of Terrorism Research for BasicsProject.org a non-profit research and education initiative. His opinion-editorials have been published by The American Enterprise Institute, The Washington Times & Human Events and are syndicated nationally.