Daryl Issa's War on Silly Names

February 23, 2011 -

When taxpayers hear the term "pork barrel spending" they think of ridiculous projects getting an earmark from appropriations secured by their elected representative in the congress. Yes, if you read only the briefest descriptions of these earmarks you might think it's all a big waste of your tax dollars. After all, do we really need to be spending money on researching yoga and condoms when every state in the country is running deficits and the federal government's level debt is out of control?

If we go by the brief summary descriptions of many of these projects then the answer would probably be "yes." The problem is that many of these "silly-sounding" projects are actually important studies that lead to medical breakthroughs. This in turns leads to advanced medical techniques and technologies, or just a better understanding of how certain diseases and medical conditions can affect human beings.  

Scientists heading up many of these alleged pork barrel spending projects say that the Republicans’ attacks based on a paragraph's worth of information is wrong-headed and disingenuous. Further, they add that the media and blogs who support certain views are taking what politicians say about these projects at face value. Meanwhile, no one - including politicians and the media - have bothered to ask any of the scientists and researchers anything about any of these projects.  

House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) seems to be at the forefront of pointing out projects with "silly names" that should be defunded and shut down. Last week he proposed defunding many in amendments to the lower chamber's budget bill. He was unsuccessful, but his action certainly caught the attention of scientists heading up some of these projects.

One project in particular that caught my eye was a National Science Foundation examination of whether video games can improve mental health among the elderly. A spokesperson for the NSF said the word "video game" was probably what caught Issa's eye.

"The word 'videogame' makes it sound silly and for children," Lily Whiteman, a spokeswoman for the National Science Foundation said, adding that the NSF's research could aid "millions of Alzheimer's patients.” She also pointed out that no one from Issa's office or the media contacted her office about the research.  

Other scientists see Issa's efforts to trim fat from the federal budget as grandstanding and point out that projects that get defunded waste money already spent on research and cost people jobs. In other words, the tax payers' money gets wasted anyway.

Source: Huffington Post


Comments

Re: Daryl Issa's War on Silly Names

I was half expecting this post to read like a Monty Python skit.

I'm half-disappointed.

Re: Daryl Issa's War on Silly Names

Why do you think I quit using the term "videogames" when debating them in a serious matter?

"Cybernatography" sounds much more intelligent. And people actually listen to me.

Re: Daryl Issa's War on Silly Names

Here's a thought. If your project is so worthy of the US taxpayers' money, why don't you have your representative put it in its own bill and have the legislature debate it like all others rather than have your representative attach it to a bill that has a high chance of success so that your funding goes through.

That is what people complain about when they complain about earmarks and pork barrel spending. We complain that that mone yis going to projects that do not go through the proper debate and verification process before passing.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: Daryl Issa's War on Silly Names

The other half of the problem though is that projects that do go through the proper debate and verification do not get funded unless they have much more active support.   The whole pork process exists because the people who utilize it actually get stuff done for their voters... and in the end, as our representatives, that is what we want them doing.

Pork also makes up the backbone of a political economy where representatives can trade with each other in order to build agreements.  Such horse trading is the currency of a representative system... while 'vote your conscious' sound really good from an ideological perspective, it is not very pragmatic... in other words, it works nicely in student projects but in the real world it results in ineffective representation.

Re: Daryl Issa's War on Silly Names

And here I thought my elected representatives were supposed to represent me in matters of national importance. Not to funnel Federal funds for state projects.

If those state projects are so important, why not just reduce taxes and allow the states to spend it building bridges to nowhere and on grants for local universities.

The federal government should be more concerned with matters that effect the nation as a whole as described in the Constitution.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: Daryl Issa's War on Silly Names

Hard to say what they are 'supposed' to be doing... history is murkey and both arguments could be made.....

However, generally someone who is elected and can point to ways they dirrectly benifited their voters will do better then someone who says 'well, I could have created 5000 new jobs for my district, but that doesn't help the nation so I didn't'.

Probably one of the reasons they simply don't increase the state taxes instead is they can shift blame to the federal government 'don't blame us, THEY are taxing you' while taking credit for bringing money back.

Re: Daryl Issa's War on Silly Names

Re: Daryl Issa's War on Silly Names

But won't this take forever? Look at the hilarity when that member of congress (\senate) simplified the internet down to "a series of tubes".

Maybe a scientific board to approve grants would be more efficient and qualified?

Re: Daryl Issa's War on Silly Names

That is exactly why we have commissions and board organized. To filter out the crap bills. But it doesn't help when earmarks are attached to bills that have already passed the commission step and no one bothers to debate the ammendment.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: Daryl Issa's War on Silly Names

Agreed.

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