Needling the White House

So Congress has finally passed the US$ 556 billion budget bill (Reuters). It now goes to George Bush to be signed. As John McManus and others note, the bill is laden with pork.

McManus is rightly infuriated by how keen most Congressmen are to bring home the pork, in other words, to bundle spending on useless projects that people in their home constituencies want, as a condition of allowing spending on things the nation needs. “Representative Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) … noted that the budget measure “would not have passed” if the earmarks hadn’t been attached. In other words, funding the war and legitimate government operations isn’t as important to many in Congress as making oneself look good before greedy constituents,” McManus writes. I’m right behind him when he suggests cutting out the pork might help the US’s increasingly obese budget deficit slim down a bit. But what he doesn’t mention is that the same quid pro quo attitude can actually achieve some sensible things, too.

Bush will more or less have to sign this bill. With it, finally, a provision which will allow Washington DC to fund needle exchange programmes to try to put a lid on its shamefully high HIV incidence rates. Also in the small print: the bill will give Bush 6.5 billion for HIV programmes in developing countries — even more than the president asked for, and probably more than can be spent sensibly. But at least this bill suspends the absurd requirement that a third of HIV prevention money be spent on abstinence-only programmes that have been proven not to work. There’s a boost to open access publishing, too (see Where do bears shit?)

This post was published on 21/12/07 in Ideology and HIV, Money and AIDS.

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