Ballooning the federal deficit

Arizona’s GOP senator John McCain has been fuming over the $7.7 billion worth of earmarks hidden in the nooks and crannies of a $410 billion spending bill that started in the House and was making its way through the Senate. He tried but failed on a 63–32 vote to remove more than 8500 earmarks for fellow lawmakers’ pet projects from the bill. But then, late last week, Democrats failed to come up with enough votes to push the final bill through the Senate, leaving open the question of whether some of the pork might eventually be stripped from the legislation.

So what goodies may be bound for San Diego? A Washington group called Taxpayers for Common Sense has assembled a database of Congress’s pet spending. Way at the top of the list of local projects is $110,362,000 to pay for massive cost overruns on a federal courthouse downtown, the budget for which hit $368.7 million as of last month. That was sponsored by Susan Davis, fellow Democrat Bob Filner, and Republicans Darrell Issa and Duncan Hunter. Then there is $1.35 million for the “San Diego and Imperial Counties Regional Communications System Upgrade,” thanks to all of the above plus Republican Brian Bilbray.

On his own, Bilbray earmarked $285,000 for “Encinitas Blvd/Interstate 5 Interchange Environmental Review” and $476,000 for a “public health information management system” for the county, along with $500,000 for “Coastal Field Data Collection: Southern California Beach Processes Study.”

Davis slipped in $95,000 for a group called Survivors of Torture International, to provide “medical, dental, psychological, and social services to victims of torture.” She got the same amount for the Southern Sudanese Community Center to spend on “job counseling and training of at-risk youth” and sponsored “regional bus replacement” to the tune of $475,000; $428,000 was set aside for Family Health Centers of San Diego for facilities and equipment, says Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Filner sponsored $58,910,000 for the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry, along with $4,479,000 for the San Diego Area Water Reclamation Program.

Issa sponsored $142,500 for a French Valley Airport Feasibility Study and $238,000 for the MiraCosta College Foundation, to be devoted to “nursing programs, including career development.”

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Isn't the Federal Courthouse expansion a result of draconian enforcement of our nation's drug laws?

Didn't Clinton, Bush II, and Obama all admit using a drug that, if they had been caught, arrested, and prosecuted, would have put them in jail instead of the Presidency?

Haven't prominent world leaders, former judges, police chiefs, and journalists recently advocated ending this expensive and ineffective drug war, moving away from a law enforcement model toward a harm reduction model? Even a Bush II drug war "Czar" has declared he doesn't care of marijuana is legalized.

Time Magazine and The Economist have this issue on the cover. Dan Walters wrote about it in the Sac Bee. Legislation has been introduced in the California Assembly.

So building this massive, and in the future we hope unnecessary court complex is nothing short of short sighted. We've already wasted enough resources fighting this counterproductive "drug war", and this edifice seems to be throwing good money after bad.

When (not if) this insanity ends, and we stop arresting people for enjoying alternative intoxicants, the current court rooms will be more than enough to administer justice.

It's a pity to see this money spent on erecting yet another monument to the failures of prohibition, rather than spending it on education or water infrastructure, or helping our neighbors in Mexico to make up for decades of using them as our dealers instead of treating them as friends.

Don't they look like 5 criminals smiling?

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