Claremont Insider: Time to Trim the Fat

Friday, March 27, 2009

Time to Trim the Fat

We were thinking about our post about the $1.8 million earmark the City of Claremont received courtesy of Congressman David Dreier. It really is a prime chunk of bacon, applewood smoked and thick-cut.

You'll recall that a reader had sent us a link to a spreadsheet that lists all of the earmarks in the recently passed federal 2009 Omnibus Appropriation Bill. Here's the earmark in question:

Click on Image to Enlarge

We're still scratching our heads over this business. It's great that Congressman Dreier is getting federal money to help the cities in his district, but as we pointed out a couple days ago, there isn't really any argument to be made that Claremont is any more deserving of the money than Montclair or Pomona. Claremont's staff may just be better at sidling up to the feds and sweet-talking them.

But given Claremont's upper middle-class demographics, aren't we really being more than a bit selfish in diverting money from places where it might be more needed and where it might do more good? And because the need remains in other places, in the end, don't these sorts of fiscal diversions end up driving up the final price on things like the 2009 Omnibus Appropriation Bill?

In the retail business you might file this sort of thing under the heading "Leakage," like losses to shoplifting and pilferage. Selfish self-interest from towns like Claremont has a double cost, it turns out. We use our city staff to steal federal and state grant money from our less well-off neighbors, and then we have our local charities asking us to give more money to help out the people whom we've stiffed.

Sorry, Pomona. Nothing personal. In the social Darwinian world of competing municipalities, it's just the cost of doing business.

* * * * *

Incidentally, we were looking through some of the numbers in that spreadsheet. Congressman Dreier did have seven solo earmarks worth $5,152,000, and seven other earmarks that he shared with some of his fellow elected officials. Those 14 earmarks totaled $17,245,000.

While that sounds like a lot, there were plenty of others whose totals were worse, and it's not necessarily whom you'd expect. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for instance, had 21 solo earmarks for $15,667,000 and 33 total for $43,574,500, but that's hardly a surprise. However, Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands), a member of what had been the party of fiscal restraint, had 19 solo earmarks for $16,290,000 - more than three times Dreier's solo earmark total, and more than Pelosi's solo amount:

By the way, has anyone seen the Fourth Estate poking around this information? Maybe it's too complicated or unsexy a story for a daily paper to delve into, but we think there's an audience for this, especially in these at a time when everyone's having to pinch pennies and cut back on expenses.