Milot’s Musings: Unity

Published 9:20 am Friday, April 1, 2022

Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s promise to unify the country is finally becoming a reality—at least in Washington.

It was great to see members of Congress stand up and applaud in unison both before and after Ukraine President Zelenskyy’s speech on March 16th . Maybe their unity will persuade President Biden to take stronger action against Ukraine’s invader, Vladimir Putin.

Actually, we shouldn’t be surprised at our Washington politicians’ unity. For example, in spite of their differences, enough senators and House representatives managed to agree on legislation to give themselves a hefty raise as part of the budget-busting $1.5 trillion Omnibus bill they recently passed. The bill ups their remuneration by $134.4 million a year.

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That’s an increase of 21% compared to the 5.1% year-over-year wage growth for American households, which, as we all know, doesn’t come close to keeping up with an inflation rate of 7.9%.

In the process of writing this 2,741-page bill, our porcine representatives made sure that constituents were not left out of their largesse with taxpayer funds. To make this possible, they reversed themselves on a decision in 2011 to do away with earmarks. Now they’re back with a vengeance.

Members of Congress made quite a spectacle of themselves as they elbowed each other to get to the pig trough for as much taxpayer money they could slurp up for their favorite projects. First in line was Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Shelby, who is retiring, gave himself a retirement present of $548 million for projects in Alabama.

The prize for the most earmarks goes to Chuck Schumer with 154 totaling $258 million, while among the states, California had 500 projects approved for $766 million. To their credit, Darrell Issa, Tom McClintock, and Kevin McCarthy, three Republican from the state, refused to have earmarks.

There are 4,000 earmarks in all, a list staggering for its creativity—and its shamelessness. Here are some of my favorites:
• $1.6 million for the development of “equitable” growth of shellfish aquaculture in Rhode Island. What do clams know about equity?
• $496,000 for a YMCA swimming pool in Yonkers to promote health “equity.” Read: teach minorities how to swim.
• $1.3 million to improve traffic flow in a 3-point roadway intersection in Texas. What’s so special about his one?
• $569,000 for the removal of derelict lobster pots. Many are homeless. I kid you not.
• $300,000 for a tree census in Hawaii. Listed by age, sex, and ethnicity, no doubt.
• $2 million for reducing inequity in access to solar power. Everyone should try and get more sunshine.
• $2.2 million to build a Bahamian Arts, History, and Cultural Center in Florida. What about immigrants from Borneo? Don’t they get one?
• $945,000 for an Oregon kelp forest survey. Sorry. My kelp forest doesn’t do surveys.
• $4.2 million to improve the infrastructure of a sheep experiment station. Sheep have labs?
• $3.5 million for a Gandhi Museum in Houston. And now I want one for Mother Teresa.
• $605,000 for an Empire State greenhouse. To grow Schumer’s carnivorous plants.

Forgive my cynicism. The problem is that our Washington spendthrifts are immune to ridicule. They simply have no shame.

A longtime columnist published in many newspapers, Claude Milot is a retired publishing executive who can be reached at cmilot@embarqmail.com