Politics & Policy

Vermont Secede? How About Just Peter Welch?

Earlier this week, Vermonters Ian Baldwin and Frank Bryan wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post advocating Vermont’s secession from the Union. Taxpayers should respond, “Go ahead, and take Peter Welch with you.”

Welch (D., Vt.), Vermont’s newly elected representative, has proposed a bill called the Carbon Neutrality Act of 2007. Should it become law, Congress could order government agencies like the State Department and the Pentagon “to use portions of their budgets to buy greenhouse-gas offsets and renewable-energy credits,” according to a report in the Burlington Free Press.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept of carbon offsets, my understanding is that if you use a lot more energy than the average American household (like, just to pick a number at random, 20 times more), then you can deflect criticism of yourself and your movie by purchasing carbon offsets, the proceeds of which pay for renewable-energy sources like windmills.

I hardly need to list the reasons why such a system is perfect for the U.S. government, but here are a few:

  1. It’s the taxpayers’ money, so who cares? If a bunch of environmentalist politicians can’t make themselves feel better about traveling everywhere in private jets and motorcades by making the taxpayers fork over a billion dollars to offset the resulting emissions, then we have truly lost our way as a nation.
  2. There’s no chance for corruption whatsoever. The existing system of grant programs for renewable-energy projects is rife with wasteful oversight and needless transparency. Lawmakers should have the freedom to bury these million-dollar earmarks for renewable-energy companies deep inside the budgets of multibillion-dollar government agencies, where they belong.
  3. Finally cracks down on the gas-guzzling U.S. military. Hundreds of Bradleys, thousands of Hummers, and not one single up-armored Prius. It’s about time we started billing America’s fighting forces for their irresponsible greenhouse-gas emissions and putting the money into developing a wind-powered aircraft carrier.

Not everyone sees the greatness of Welch’s plan. One Vermonter left this comment on the Free Press website: “So our representatives can continue to fly in their jets, then feel good by taxing the people to pay for their carbon emissions? Talk about passing the buck! How about this idea: Move to Washington, DC permanently and you won’t use so much fuel in transportation. They are so out of touch with the Vermont people, there is no reason for them to live here anymore!” Wait a minute, Vermont. No fair seceding and not taking Peter Welch with you.

One other downside to Welch’s plan: It would almost certainly require higher taxes or more borrowing. New spending is one thing Congress doesn’t know how to offset.

Pork Wars: House Republicans Pledge to Uphold Bush’s Veto

The controversy over the porked-up war supplemental rages on. At a press conference on Tuesday, President Bush said, “The only way the Democrats were able to pass their bill in the first place was to load the bill with pork and other spending that has nothing to do with the war.”

Bush quoted House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D., N.Y.), who said on Meet the Press Sunday, “A lot of things had to go into that bill that certainly those of us who respect great legislation did not want in there.”

“That’s an honest appraisal of the process that we just witnessed,” Bush said. “If Democrat leaders in Congress are bent on making a political statement,” he continued, “then they need to send me this unacceptable bill as quickly as possible when they come back. I’ll veto it, and then Congress can get down to the business of funding our troops without strings and without delay.”

House Republicans sent a letter to the White House on Monday signed by 154 members, which are enough to sustain Bush’s veto. Though many Republicans have objected to the limitations the bill places on Bush’s ability to command the military, the sole objection to the bill cited in Republicans’ letter to the White House is “the extraneous and excessive non-security related funds contained within the Global War on Terror supplemental spending bill currently under consideration in Congress.”

It’s a weird Washington thing to watch. The Democrats added $21 billion in pork to the war supplemental in order to get the votes to pass it, yet it’s the pork that’s giving the president and congressional Republicans the strongest weapon they have against the bill. Recent polls show a majority of Americans supporting the bill’s date certain for withdrawal but opposed to its many non-defense, non-emergency spending projects. The conventional wisdom says that pork greases the legislative wheels and helps difficult bills become law. Maybe it’s time for the conventional wisdom to change.

E-mail wastelandNRO@gmail.com with tips about governmental waste, fraud and abuse.


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