Real change remains top item

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By Ralph Damiani

This week, President Obama signed what he called an “imperfect” bill that spends $410 billion, including millions in earmarks.

You remember earmaks? In the campaign last year when he talked about change, change you can trust and all that, he promised to curb earmarks.

But now he says earmarks are good when they are “done right.”

The massive measure supporting federal agencies through the fall contains nearly 8,000 pet projects, earmarked by sponsors though denounced by critics. And the president at one time.

He said in signing the bill that earmarks have been abused and he promised to work with Congress to curb them. Now would have been a good time to start.

But he continued the government’s new spending ways and it is getting scary.

In running for president, Obama denounced these pet projects as wasteful and open to abuse – and vowed reform. He continues to say he will work to change this bad system. We only wish he had started today.

Today, he says that future earmarks must have a “legitimate and worthy public purpose.” But that simply adds a covering to a bad thing. We doubt that anyone who ever put forward an earmark, fully supported the idea saying that it had a “legitimate and worthy public purpose.”

Saying that now is simply nonsense.

But he does say change is coming. Spokespeople say that there will be a new procdure for earmarks, that  there will be more review.

But this is a very far cry from the campaign when he spoke against them.

We do not mean to say this is a new process. It has existed for a long time. But Obama raised the matter in the campaign. We hope he does better looking ahead.

A new review process is not having anything go away.

The bill sent from the Democratic-controlled Congress to the White House contained 7,991 earmarks totaling $5.5 billion.

The 1,132-page bill has an extraordinary reach, wrapping together nine spending bills to fund the annual operating budgets of every Cabinet department except Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs. Among the many earmarks are $485,000 for a boarding school for at-risk native students in western Alaska and $1.2 million for Helen Keller International so the nonprofit can provide eyeglasses to students with poor vision.

And note, LANL got money in this bill. Our argument is not necessarily about the monies, but the process.

This – and the billions in growing deficits – is not the kind of change we think most people thought they were voting for. It is still early in the game and the president has a lot of time left.

It is hoped that he moves forward in the right direction as he still has the support of the vast majority of Americans who want him to succeed and do what is right for all of us.