Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Please forgive our boldness, O Masters!

From this past Sunday through the upcoming weekend, we have been enjoying the fruits of Sunshine Week. According to Mark Tapscott of the Washington Examiner, Sunshine Week is “an effort led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors to press for greater transparency and accountability in our government and to increase public awareness of the importance of doing so.”

When Senators Tom Coburn and Barack Obama got together last year and put forward their budget bill, it seemed as though somebody (or bodies) up there on the Hill had finally figured out that the natives were, indeed, getting restless, and those somebodies were willing to quell the concerns of the masses. All last spring and summer, the new media had quietly seethed and pressed for reforms, especially as it comes to spending earmarks. The educated public were tired of seeing their tax dollars vanish down a hole of non-accountability. The Coburn-Obama bill was supposed to correct that, shining a light on every little proposed expenditure.

The bill proposed, among other things, that the national budget with all its add-ons and earmarks be made public over the internet (with some exceptions for national security purposes) at least 48 hours before it was to come to vote, that every earmark be “claimed” -- that is, a name be attached to it any part where the budget was redirected to provide some spare cash for a pet project, so that we could all know whose bright idea it was to build a memorial fountain in the middle of, say, Lake Michigan. It would make public the government again, and, perhaps, give us reason for trusting our representatives.

It would appear we trusted a little too soon.

The bill did not pass in its undiluted form, but with all manner of attachments which, in essence, make it purely a symbolic gesture. And the Office of Management and Budget is playing along with them. Again, I cite Mark Tapscott:
[W]ord is circulating on the Hill that the Bush administration is going to release only a limited database of earmarks later today or maybe no database at all, but just aggregate or summary data.

Seems the White House legislative staff fears releasing the database would offend members of the appropriation committees in Congress.

Gee, whiz! They’re worried about upsetting congresscritters. After all, they put all those signs up all over the National Zoo to discourage that sort of thing. We all know how dangerous it is to feed the self-righteous indignation of an elected official.

Heaven forfend that the high and mighty might be forced to account for themselves, and for their budgets! Private citizens and private businesses have been forced to reveal more to the public about their expenditures, over the past years, than have public officials. This, combined with the so-called draining of the swamp which put several known crooks at the heads of important commitees, would indicate that our elected officials think that they are far and away superior to all the mere mortals who elected them from amid their ranks. We dare not raise our eyes and gaze upon the highest of the high, for fear we may better understand the process of making the holy sausages and find that the by-product which goes into it isn’t really worth what the Good Butcher charges us for it.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh, too judgmental. Perhaps they believe they are protecting us from ourselves. Perhaps if we were to understand all that they were doing, we would become so overwhelmed with gratitude and shame for our suspicions, our civilization would collapse. Perhaps they simply fear that we will be blinded by the light that shines out their budgets. Or, perhaps they truly have, like Caligula, become gods.

Must we continue to bow and scrape and kowtow to them, because they believe they know better than we know what’s good for us? I think not.

It’s not too early to start thinking of replacements for all the members of Congress who voted against the transparency bill, or pushed amendments to nullify it. It’s not too late to remind them who actually pays the power bill at their temple. They are not gods. At best, they are mere mortals, and, at most, they have become self-absorbed, self-serving vampires.

And we know what happens to vampires when the sun strikes them.


Suggested Reading:
Mark Tapscott on Sunshine Week and on Admin caving on earmarks. Plus the Sunshine Week official website.
Also, check out Porkbusters -- especially their Hall of Shame.
Plus -- Captain's Quarters: Popeye Strategy for Iraq.

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