I've had it with phony Republican outrage over earmarks

The right-wing noise machine is in high gear regarding the $7.7 billion earmarked for various projects in the fiscal year 2009 omnibus spending bill.

Where was the outrage when the Defense Department inspector general determined last year that the DOD can’t account for $7.8 billion spent in Iraq?

Why didn’t they cheer on President Barack Obama when he moved this week to reduce the billions wasted on no-bid and fraudulent government contracts?

Senator Tom Harkin is under fire for getting so many earmarks in the omnibus bill (though Chuck Grassley also helped secure a substantial number of earmarks). I don’t agree with everything Harkin said yesterday about the earmarks, but he was right on target here:

What needs more attention, according to Harkin, are no-bid contracts done by federal agencies.

“I had a hearing a year ago on the Department of Labor and there were — I forget the exact figure – but several hundred million dollars that had gone out under Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao on no-bid contracts,” he said.

When Harkin directed a federal oversight agency to look into the contracts, it was discovered that the contractors had not done what they were hired to do and, according to Harkin, “didn’t really do anything. …

“At least we are transparent,” he said. “You can see where it is going. But on a lot of these non-bid contracts that go through the executive branch, no one knows what they are doing. We have no transparency there.”

Hundreds of millions of dollars wasted in just one department of the executive branch—but conservatives won’t get upset about that. Nor will they express outrage upon learning that George Bush’s political appointees awarded pricey USDA consulting contracts that did nothing for the Department of Agriculture.

I’ve got another post coming later about the infamous Harkin earmark for studying pig odor. I want to know where the angry Republicans were last year when progressives and environmentalists were trying to persuade the Iowa legislature not to pass the deeply flawed odor-study bill (see here, here or here).

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