John Boehner and House Republicans swore off earmarks this year, and heralded the return of responsible budgeting to Washington. But the continuing resolution for fiscal year 2011 appears to include what amounts to an earmark totaling $450 million, which largely benefits Boehner’s home district.
But buried deeply in these 359 pages of ugly surprises is a provision that would mean one community in America would do a lot better than all of the others. The legislation added an estimated $450 million for a particular bit of defense spending that the Department of Defense did not ask for and does not want.
The item is a down payment that would obligate the federal government to future payments that could well be three or four times the increased spending added to this particular piece of legislation, with a big portion of the funds flowing to two cities in Ohio—Cincinnati, where Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) grew up, and Dayton, the largest city in his congressional district.
The money will go to pay the costs to General Electric Co.’s General Electric Aviation unit and the British-owned Rolls Royce Group for their development of an engine for the new Joint Strike Fighter aircraft—money that looks, feels, and smells very much like an earmark.
Funding for the Joint Strike Fighter’s alternate engine is eliminated in the Obama FY2012 budget. But the continuation of the funding for this fiscal year, going largely to Boehner’s district in Dayton and hometown of Cincinnati, would obligate future payments to finish the contract.
Local union officials are on the side of Boehner in this dispute because building a new engine unquestionably creates jobs. But the job yield and the tangible benefits are much lower than they would be on a spending program for something with societal utility. The White House budget is loaded with proposed spending on clean energy innovation, infrastructure, and other projects which yield more jobs and leave something behind that contributes to American productivity. A boondoggle of a project like the JSF alternate engine serves nobody’s needs, not even the Pentagon’s. Only John Boehner and some defense contractor in this district gets rewarded from this.
Boehner is certainly not alone in steering defense pork back to his district. But given his leadership of a House caucus which fiercely rejected earmarks, the irony looms large.