Saturday, March 17, 2007

Two Things I Don't Really Like

The Supporting Our Troops and Veterans' Health Care Act seems like a pretty straightforward bill. The name is in fact so explicit that the image of stubbornly-precise Congressmen crafting trite names for bills rushes to mind. The bill, however, had attached to it a number of additional provisions, including:

- $140 million in aid for farmers and ranchers affected by Hurricane Katrina.
- $450 million in food assistance to Sudan, Afghanistan, and Southern Africa
- $1 billion to purchase pandemic flu vaccines
- $140 million for security aid to Liberia and Jordan
- $3.7 billion for agricultural disaster assistance

While many of the extra additions to this bill address important issues that are very much in need of funding, the reality is that over $12.4 billion in the Act do not focus on "Supporting Our Troops" or addressing "Veterans' Health Care." This way of doing business is commonplace in Washington, DC, but it still surprises. If a friend were to ask me for money for a taxi, but they used a large part of the money to also buy a "Stop the Genocide" t-shit, I certainly wouldn't be angry, but I would have expected them to let me know what they were doing with my money. As well-intentioned as these actions might be, American taxpayers deserve to know that supplemental aid is being provided to Gulf Coast fisherman when a "Support Our Troops" bill is passed.

The whole culture of under-the-table changes to bills and laws is widespread, but you don't need to only look at money appropriations to see people taking advantage of certain circumstances in order to further individual agendas. Recently, in light of both the Alberto Gonzales scandal and the comments by Ann Coulter at CPAC, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards have both attempted to capitalize on these events in order to raise money for their campaigns. Clinton's website is currently running the advertisement above, conveniently located near the donate button on the page. Perhaps Clinton really cares the most about getting people to her site in order to sign the petition, but you can tell that she loves the potential for publicity and increased contributions that the current scandal offters her. John Edwards also ran a advertisement online last week; his making the connection between being angry at Ann Coulter and donating money.

I worry that politicians now, instead of looking straight in the eyes of the problems that face them instead turn around and plead for support and funds to advance their causes. New York and North Carolina voters elected Clinton and Edwards to use the connections they have to pass meaningful reforms and get things done, not to try and get caught up in the exploitation of headline news stories. Similarly, let's make sure that voters know what exactly is getting passed by their leaders.

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