Democrat's Pledge Of Transparency Nowhere In Sight genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

A Distinction Without A Difference

Unless the Democrats have a rapid change of heart, their opponents in the upcoming 2008 elections will be running ads with Nancy Pelosi repeating her eloquent pledge to "Make this the most honest, ethical, and open Congress in history." Perhaps meaningful changes will still be implemented but the Democrats run the risk of being tagged with falling far short on their promise to bring transparency to government.

If a new CNN report is an indication of things to come, Democrats have seemingly taken for granted the voter sentiment that swept them into power in 2006. My own impression is that today's voters, unlike the politicians they elect, have a low tolerance for broken promises and wouldn't hesitate to undertake another house cleaning in 2008.

(CNN) -- Despite the new Democratic congressional leadership's promise of "openness and transparency" in the budget process, a CNN survey of the House found it nearly impossible to get information on lawmakers' pet projects.

Staffers for only 31 of the 435 members of the House contacted by CNN between Wednesday and Friday of last week supplied a list of their earmark requests for fiscal year 2008, which begins on October 1, or pointed callers to Web sites where those earmark requests were posted.

Of the remainder, 68 declined to provide CNN with a list, and 329 either didn't respond to requests or said they would get back to us, and didn't.

In 2006, Congress approved a record $29 billion in earmarks -- those spending requests derided as "pork" that fund everything from road construction and research grants to ski lifts and minor league baseball diamonds. Legislators view these projects as important proof that they are serving their constituents back home.

The 2006 total was 6.2 percent more than 2005's $27.3 billion.

When Democrats regained control of Congress last fall, they promised to create the most honest, open Congress in history.

"We will bring transparency and openness to the budget process and to the use of earmarks," Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi said in December 2006, "and we will give the American people the leadership they deserve."

Democrats said that Republicans had corrupted the earmark process while they controlled Congress.

Earlier this year, the House implemented rules changes that require greater disclosure of earmark requests, and the Senate passed a bill that would require lawmakers to post a list of their earmark requests on the Internet. The bill, however, has not passed the House.

I know I know...the Democrats will blame the Republicans and visa versa...and the bottom line will be a watered down version of a bill that is filled with opportunities for politicians of all stripes to hide spending earmarks. Is it any wonder that the latest poll indicates a huge majority of Americans believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction...is it any wonder that both the President and the Congress have horrendous approval numbers...is it any wonder that more and more voters are clamoring for an end to a two party system?

Each election cycle we watch as both parties’ rally their supporters with hot button issues and then we witness each side deliver tepid results. In the end, the situation seems to epitomize the notion that there actually exists little more than a distinction without a difference. Absent real choices, it’s no wonder we have such low voter turnout.

Further, the two parties’ repeatedly warn voters that casting a vote for a third party is a wasted vote that will do little more than put the opposition in power...and we believe them. Sadly, until enough voters reject the formula and break the cycle, we'll continue to enable our own victimization. On that note, I feel the need for a shower.

Daniel DiRito | June 19, 2007 | 3:06 PM
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