Symbolic Presidency

Matt Yglesias raises a good point about John McCain’s pork-busting, um, hogwash which was on full display on Morning Joe. (Go to Yglesias for the clip). But here’s the point.

But surely McCain doesn’t actually think the president should veto this bill, right? After all, McCain himself voted for it and is urging the House to pass it. That’s because the bill is very important, so it needs to be passed even if there’s some crap associated with it. Which is how things work — you don’t attach your pork items to trivial pieces of legislation that people are happy to throw overboard, you attack them to the important bills that need to pass. McCain is fond of observing that you can’t vote “present” when you’re President of the United States. Which is true enough. But you also can’t cast churlish protest votes. A Senator is often in a position to vote against a bill just to make a point, sure that it’ll pass anyway. But a president can’t veto a bill just because it includes a tax break for manufacturers of toy wooden arrows — if it’s an important bill, he needs to sign it.

I really don’t have much else to add other than this is just another way in which John McCain doesn’t fully grasp the difference between being a Senator and being a President. A Senator can bluster all he wants about us all “being Georgians” or cast symbolic votes in the Senate, but there really isn’t such a thing as a symbolic veto or reprecussion free Presidential sabre-rattling.

Facts Hurt

During the opening of the debate, John McCain spent a great deal of time either pivoting to or expounding upon the great many benefits of crusading against pork-barrel spending as a means to reign in government spending. I’d make a joke, but this chart is only punchline needed.

In this light — and indeed I think McCain did make this argument — combating earmark spending, such as through the ludicrous promise to veto any earmarked bill, would be of largely attitudinal benefit. The virtue of positive thinking notwithstanding, it would be nice to hear how McCain plans on curbing spending while expanding Bush’s tax cuts on the wealthy without cutting Social Security or Medicare. I’d say cutting defense spending is an option too, but if you think McCain’s going to slash defense, I have some Lehman stock I’d like to sell you.

Pork In Lipstick

An MSNBC.com investigative report illuminates Sarah Palin’s personal crusade against earmarks as Mayor of Wasilla.

In a monthly status report to the city on March 7, 2000, newly hired “City Lobbyist” Steve Silver describes how the Palin administration had requested $6.6 million in federal earmarks for water and sewer improvements for Wasilla, and another $1 million for police equipment. Mayor Palin reviewed and signed the lobbyist’s report, dated April 5, 2000…

…Steve Silver, the Wasilla lobbyist, is a former top staffer for Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who now is under federal indictment for allegedly failing to disclose thousands of dollars in services he received from a company that helped renovate his Alaska home…

…In the lobbying documents, Silver also encourages Palin and other city officials to visit Washington, D.C….As the Alaska papers have reported, Palin took him up on the invitation and began making regular D.C. trips. “It was about being face to face with those who were actually writing the budget,” Palin told the Anchorage Daily News in 2006…

In response, the McCain campaign argued…

“She was working within the system that was set up.”

Well said.

Palin Not Kosher After All

Speaking of John Kerry, it seems like Sarah Palin and John McCain might be heading down the road of convoluted defenses that undermine a perceived strength. This is Sarah Palin reacting to questions about a $3.2 million earmark for studying seal DNA, despite otherwise staunch opposition to earmarks on the campaign trail, if not in her own state:

Those requests, through our research divisions and fish and game and our wildlife departments and our universities, those research requests did come through that system, but wanting it to be in the light of day, not behind closed doors, with lobbyists making deals with Congress to stick things in there under the public radar. That’s the abuse that we’re going to stop. That’s what John McCain has promised over and over for these years and that’s what I’m joining him, also, saying, you’re right, the abuse of earmarks, it’s un-American, it’s undemocratic, and it’s not going to be accepted in a McCain-Palin administration. Earmark abuse will stop.

So apparently, the problem isn’t with “government waste” per se, it’s a problem with the process through wich the “waste” is distributed. I have to say, this is largely at odds with John McCain’s assertion to veto “pork-barrel laden” bills and defame the guilty parties. I look forward to hearing explanations between good pork and bad pork for all of these during the debates.

Balancing the Budget

The CBO released their update to budget projections from year 2008 through 2018 today, and the numbers don’t look good. And there’s this, from MarketWatch.

Unlike the February update, which showed the budget roughly in balance through 2018 under favorable assumptions, the September projection now sees deficits totaling $2.3 trillion over the next 10 years. Those projections assume that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire and that the alternative minimum tax is not changed. If the tax cuts are extended as the White House and the McCain-Palin ticket want, the deficits over the next 10 years would be $4.2 trillion higher than now projected, CBO said.

Of course, $4.2 trillion is nothing $18 billion of pork-barrel busting can’t solve.

La-La-Land

Palin: “We just put the government back on the side of the people.”

Given that Alaska receives $1.87 from the Federal government for every $1 it gives in taxes, I’m not sure the Alaskan government hasn’t always been on the side of the people. Also, what about that bridge to nowhere? Oh yeah, she a) took the money anyway and b) had previously campaigned on behalf of the bridge to nowhere.

And since she’s mentioning the windfall oil tax she fought hard for, that’s been part of Obama’s plan.

Just saying.