Critical Rescue Plan or the Mother of All Earmarks

Last night, the U.S. Senate passed an amended version of Paulson Plan to bailout Wall Street. The amended bill has a couple particularly notable aspects. The first is that it is no longer being referred to as a Bailout for Wall Street. That language did not seem to gain it as many supporters as commentators on CNBC may have hoped. Instead, it is now a Critical Rescue Plan for our economy. This reflects a marketing shift attempting to sell the plan on Main Street as well as Wall Street.

The second major change is the number of pages. The plan is now 451 pages long. A drastic change from the short of sweet plan that Paulson proposed. Fortunately, for people having difficulty sleeping, perhaps due to the anxiety over the economy, the draft of the plan is online. Some sick souls have even spent time reading the plan and posting about it online.

A post on DailyKos highlights various provisions in the bill, covering issues like “Rum excise tax to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands…Motorsports racing track facility…Wool modifications… [and] Children and wooden arrows”. In the comments, people talk about the tax on rum as being a tax on pirates, the motorsports racing track facility language as an effort to reach out to Nascar enthusiasts, and the wool modifications as “$2 million for modifications of wool in order to provide for better fitting over eye sockets of humans”.

Bloomberg goes into a bit more detail. They talk about the arrows as “a provision repealing a 39-cent excise tax on wooden arrows designed for children... The provision, originally proposed by Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith, will save manufacturers such as Rose City Archery in Myrtle Point, Oregon, about $200,000 a year. “

The article also claims that “Most of the provisions are part of a package of provisions known as ``extenders'' because they are renewed for only a few years at a time.” Keith Ashdown, of the Taxpayers for Common Sense describes this as “a big pot of pork”, Bloomberg links this to a Technical Explanation of H.R. 7060, The ‘Renewable Energy and Job Creation Tax Act of 2008.

So, is this a Bailout Plan for Wall Street, a Critical Rescue Plan for our Economy, “a big pot of pork”, or the mother of all earmarks? Perhaps, it is a bit of all of this and more.

Most importantly, it may be a teachable moment, where all of us are confronted by the importance of understanding how Wall Street and Congress affect our daily lives. To the extent that people take a little time, to learn more about how the economy works, how Wall Street works, and what they have buried in their IRAs and 401(k)s, to the extent that people take a little time to learn about how the legislative process really works, what goes into bills and our tax code, perhaps even read some draft legislation and respond, we just might be able to squeeze a little bit of lemonade out of this giant pot of lemons.

P.S. John at EZGreatLife has a blog post up with more references to questionable items in the bill

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