Stick It In Your Earmark Redux, or: Surprise, News Views Ban as a Bad Thing for Trinity

O.K., I promise not to go on about it, but there's an interesting little two-step today on Page One of Dallas's Only Daily Newspaper. I just wanted to call it to your attention. It's about congressional earmarks and us.

For a week or so we have been going on and on about how the Republican ban on congressional earmarks is going to screw up Dallas's Trinity River project, which has been funded for more than a decade almost entirely by earmarks. So today, finally, The Dallas Morning News has a story about how the Republican ban on earmarks is going to screw up the Trinity River Corridor Project and maybe also future rail projects.

Here's a big difference in approaches. Jim Schutze: Screw up Trinity River project, good. Dallas Morning News: Screw up Trinity River Project, bad.

So The News story includes lots of lines about how banning earmarks is a bad idea: "Critics of the moratorium on earmarks argue that such funds -- roughly 1 percent of the budget -- won't be cut, they'll just be directed by the administration rather than by elected representatives."

The story also includes another interesting factoid, tossed in down deep in the text without explanation, almost as an aside: "The administration of George W. Bush -- a Dallas resident and former governor -- actively tried to eliminate funding for the Trinity project. The Obama administration has also shown little interest."

Really! One president who is from Dallas and another president who we're not even sure is from this planet because we haven't yet seen his planetary birth papers, and they both tried to kill the Trinity River Project? Wow.

Isn't that a big, "WHY?" Hey! Mr. Newspaper Editor over there! I'm talkin' to you. Your reporter put in the story that two presidents have tried to kill this deal, and he forgot to say why. In fact, didn't you "bury the lede" here, as we say in the biz?


Ah, but you see, "why" is the big no-no. (Am I going on about his yet?) "Why" is the story The News won't tell you. And it's the story nobody wants to tell nationally about earmarks. Earmarks are end-runs around the law, around reason and around fairness.

The Bush White House stated early on in clear terms that it was concerned that the Trinity River project was bogus at birth. I invite you to read their explanation here.

In 14 years of coverage, The News has never told you why. It has never done a comprehensive story on the many ways in which the Trinity River project fails to meet the standards for flood control projects or transportation projects.

It has been funded entirely through political string-pulling and end-runs because it doesn't measure up. It can't make the numbers required by law for federally funded projects.

It's like this: Your no-good cousin Zappo applies for a federal disability pension, claiming that he is unable to work because of "a lifelong aversion to being told what to do." Those bad federal bureaucrats everybody likes to rail against look at Zappo's paperwork. They send him an e-mail saying, "Get a job, Zappo."

So Zappo goes to Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and asks her to get him an earmark. In fairness, my metaphor ends here, before Johnson makes a decision. But you get the point.

Earmarks are ways to cheat the regs. That's what you will never ever read in Dallas's Only Daily. Well, not about our earmarks. Over the years they have told you lots of amazing stories about those bad people over in that other bad state somewhere who wanted bad earmarks for their bad Yankee bridge-to-nowhere projects. But here at home it's all about defending the people's will against crazy unreasonable wild-eyed flamboyant federal bureaucrats - you know, that type of person we see so much of.

It's why I say we have to read The News the way citizens of the old Soviet Regime read Isvestia. You never read it for what's on the page. You read for the holes.

Alaska had a bridge to nowhere. We have a bridge to Ray's Gun Shop. Oh, well, we can see it now, sure -- that's totally different. Ray's Hardware and Sporting is the proper name. Maybe when they finish the eight zillion-dollar fake suspension bridge taking us across the river to it, Ray will change the name to "Shooting Provisions by Ray."

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze

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