President Obama’s claim that the Democrats’ stimulus bill contained no earmarks was always a deception. Now we learn that, in the final moments before passage, the legislation became even more larded with this type of directed benefit.
For example, as the Washington Post reports, language at the end will save General Motors from paying up to $10 billion in taxes related to its acceptance of federal bailout funds. And “Democratic lawmakers from Wisconsin and Indiana helped make buyers of motorcycles and recreational vehicles eligible for a tax credit aimed primarily at automobile and truck purchasers.” This measure “will primarily benefit Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson and RV manufacturers in Elkhart, Ind., where Obama held a town hall meeting last week as part of his campaign to push the stimulus.”
The largest item added at the last minute was an $8 billion investment fund for building high-speed rail. As the Post’s Dan Eggen explains, “White House advisers” originally took the position that major rail projects would take too long to get underway to justify them as short-term stimulus. But later the White House had the money inserted into the final legislation, claiming that it met the president’s criteria for stimulus spending. Eggen notes that the White House “did not explain why the item would now meet those criteria when it did not before.”
On its face, the $8 billion for high-speed rail doesn’t look like an earmark. However, Republicans contend that it is actually a barely disguised earmark for a proposed magnetic-levitation rail line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, in California, championed by Harry Reid. Democrats deny this.
It will be interesting to see where that money ends up being spent.
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