Why We Need to Ban Earmarks

Matt Moon keys off a tweet of mine suggesting a total earmark ban, at least until we get beyond the current disfigurement of the federal budget. He writes:

I agree with Patrick that earmarks are the most visible symbol. But that's exactly the problem. I don't agree that it's enough for Republicans to fix "symbols" of how we've lost our way. I don't agree that we need to focus on symbols. Yes, we need to fix the abuse of the earmark process by reforming it. But the fact is that not all earmarks can be construed as wasteful spending and not all wasteful spending are in earmarks.

I agree that earmarks are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to wasteful spending. Of late, I've also taken a dim view of symbolism as a substitute for policy. But here's the thing.

If we are going to spend $819 billion on an economic stimulus, and a $410 billion omnibus on top of it, the least Congress could do to signal that they are giving up some part of the gravy train is to suspend earmarked spending for the duration of the budget crisis. This is a political winner for Republicans. Republicans didn't have the votes to stop the stimulus or the omnibus, but we could rally public opinion around the idea of cutting off the part of the budget process perceived as the most politically self-serving and corrupt. It's not hundreds of billions of dollars, but it still makes a statement against the idea that the electorate can be bought with government dollars. In a minority situation such as the one we are in, it helps to pick fights we can win in the court of public opinion.

The political case for earmarks rests on the myth that constituentsRepublicans and Democrats, want earmarks. In individual cases, this is true. But in the aggregate, polling has shown that the public takes a dim view of the process. And incumbents who do not take earmarks are re-elected at the same rate as incumbents who do.

The trouble with earmarks, beyond just their symbolic importance, is that earmarked spending is inherently recreational in nature. They are mostly for one-off projects that were never funded before, and are often a substitute for private investment -- making each earmark a mini-bailout.

Regardless of price tag, Republicans should not be in the business of defending new and optional spending. It's just not in our DNA as Republicans. One can be a fiscal conservative and support spending on basic public services like police, schools, and roads that are funded year in and year out. If earmarked projects are truly necessary, they should be funded through the ordinary budget process, not through haphazard one-off earmarks.

4
Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

Comments

what private investment can I get in my sewer system?

CSOs are killing the puppies! you gotta save the puppies!

... but people won't pay me to save the widdle puppies...

 

I'm sorry, does your congressman use his earmarks inappropriately? from where I'm standing, having a river that we can actually eat fish out of is a GOOD thing!

Isn't this bribery

Other than the wasteful spending, I have always viewed earmarks as a pay-to-play scenario for politicians. You support me, I will get you this money or project. It seems like bribery. That is why I think earmarks need to go. They just encourage corruption.

 http://franklinslocke.blogspot.com/

 

Do you think the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will support this?

Because if the U.S. Chamber of Commerce doesn't support your suggestion, it will not be a part of Corporate America's political agenda. If it is not part of Corporate America's political agenda, it ain't going to be supported by the Republican party's leadership.

But, hey! At least you are out there trying.

ex animo

davidfarrar

Preaching to the choir?

Sure. I agree, moritorium on earmarks. It would good start with republicans to not take any. I don't think it would be a big win, but a good-faith gesture that I think voters would take notice.

As soon as I get elected I promise not to take any gravy.

: )

VOTE FOR CR!

(image and donate button coming soon)

-----

And, "it's just not in our DNA"? Right.

Easy to demogogue, hard to do.

Republicans should not be in the business of defending new and optional spending.

Pat is only half right with that assertion. Sure all earmarks are optional in that somone had to propose them in the first place. But earmarks DO NOT represent new spending. Eliminating any or all of them saves the taxpayer exactly ZERO dollars. Once the appropriation bill is passed the money is already spent. And a hundred million earmarks, or their absence, won't reduce or increase that amount by even one penny.

The last figures I could find was the non-military portion of the discretionary federal budget for last year was 675 billion, of which a bit less than 8 billion was earmarked. That DOES NOT mean that the 8 billion in earmarks increased the budget figure to 683 billion. It means that 8 billion or just over 1% of the discretionary budget, was directed to purposes that were determined by Congress.

In 2008, 667 billion went to purposes determined by the President and executive branch officials. I'm sure Obama would love for the Republicans to give him control of 100%, instead of 99%, of federal discretionary spending. Sounds to me like he's got nothing to lose, and is calling their bluff on this one. Eliminating earmarks is a vote winner if you demogogue it for the ignorant masses, but it's a vote loser if you actually are boneheaded enough to enact it as legislation. (Sorta like an abortion ban, but so far they haven't been that stupid)

About the only thing I've heard that makes any sense, would be a ban on the very small percentage of earmarks that benefit a private company or individual as political payback for campaign donations, while leaving the funding of public government projects in place. But of course that was part of the earmark reform President Obama proposed. A far cry from, "I will make them famous, and you will know their names, my friends." A "proposal" that would effectively accomplish... Bupkus!

Preening posers like McCain, McConnell, Shelby, and Graham are up against the ropes on this one. My guess is that Obama's reform proposal will pass. But not before the GOP shaves another 2 to 5 points off their already dismal public approval numbers for this gross display.

Obama's proposal is a Phony

The Hill Barons aren't going to let this naif touch their swag. If they wouldn't let McCain get rid of their baksheesh, they won't let this babe in the woods. You can keep peddling your talking points, but I don't have to believe you. Obama's statement that these are the last earmarks are as authentic as McCain's name taking. 

The point you miss is that, operationally, these Democrats are no different from the DeLay Republicans: Earmarks are the grease that allows these people to do business. Think of it as the icing on the cake.  The notion that the Democrats are somehow holier than the Republicans when it comes to doing business is a scam peddled by the gullible who should, for their own health, depend on a less partisan view of life.

Republicans are going to lose 2-5 points because Obama will give them something they are saying they want? Meantime, the Democrats are going to give up precious swag just to make Obama look good? For a temporary blip in the polls?

Did you read what you just wrote?

Not in this timeline, pal. Perhaps in the Mirror Universe where Spock has a beard. 

How I wish!

You can keep peddling your talking points, but I don't have to believe you.

From your mouth to God's ear, my friend. Oh If only it were true.  Me, sitting in a nice air conditioned Democratic strategy office in a sleek high rise of some liberal metropolis like Boston, Washington, San Fran, NY. Waiting for my daily conference call with Rahm and the boys. Feeding my clever talking points into the fax machine. Pulling down six figures to do what I do on the internet for free everyday. Pinch me I'm dreaming again.

Instead I'm busting my ass managing a dumpy, sweaty, dry cleaners, in the oh so progressive state of Alabama. And the only proof I can offer you that my comment above is not a talking point from me or anyone else, is the fact that you won't find 1 in 100,000 Americans who understand the true nature of earmarks like I explained them. If I mischaracterised anything, please feel free to challenge. But unlike Republicans I don't go with a lie, when the truth would be more effective.

For a temporary blip in the polls?

It's amazing we Democrats are up in the 40's, while the GOP is down in the 20's. We are so pitifully poor at getting our message out. If we actually had half the brains of Atwater and Rove, we would have poll numbers in the 80's. We can't even get the basics of framing the argument right. I cringe everytime I hear a liberal talking head call it "Card Check" instead of "The Employee Free Choice Act". Sheesh, my party is like a real life Police Academy movie. 

SES and TAX BASE

are the two concepts you need to understand. People from higher socio economic status states and districts produce fewer earmarks -- they need 'em less.

Murtha's a champ at earmarks. So's Rangel. Feingold? McKaskill? not so much...

You can trace the lines. It's the republican's fault that they consistently come from dirtpoor regions, not the democrats.

No, the democrats are not "just the other side of the fence"... it really is greener, and there is a solid, logical reason for it.

The Hobbyhorse of the Candidate who Lost

Excellent comment, Artigiano. Earmarks represent a negligible amount of government spending, and, in any case, they are a logical consequence of the sort of representative democracy we have. This would be a minor issue in good times, but during the worst economic crisis in decades it's even more irrelevant. It's also a political loser, as McCain demonstrated last fall.

 

The political case for

The political case for earmarks rests on the myth that constituents, Republicans and Democrats, want earmarks. In individual cases, this is true. But in the aggregate, polling has shown that the public takes a dim view of the process. And incumbents who do not take earmarks are re-elected at the same rate as incumbents who do.

pocono raceway - regents prep - math regents

Oh it's in the DNA of Republicans

Historically we have been the biggest spender of ear marks and the last 8 years of our actions? Blows your theory right out of the water.

Facts or our party is doomed....Facts...they hide them in books, read some once in a while.

Murtha's a champ at earmarks.

Murtha's a champ at earmarks. So's Rangel. Feingold? McKaskill? not so much... You can trace the lines. It's the republican's fault that they consistently come from dirtpoor regions, not the democrats. No, the democrats are not "just the other side of the fence"... it really is greener, and there is a solid, logical reason for it.

indoor tanning lotion - sunbed tanning - tanning bulbs - tanning bed lotion

This doesn't make sense

@PR:  If earmarked projects are truly necessary, they should be funded through the ordinary budget process, not through haphazard one-off earmarks.

I'm not sure what you envision here.  Take a look at the recent supplementary spending bill (i.e., the bill that was passed to fund the federal government until the next budget is passed).  In particular, take a look at Division H, the part dealing with foreign aid, and count how many earmarks for Israel (and other countries) you find.  (An earmark is usually expressed by a qualifying clause that looks something like "of which not less than $___ shall be spent on ...")

I don't object to those earmarks, but it's not clear from your statement what kind of a budget process you have in mind, or whether the result you have in mind would or would not include these earmarks.

Why earmarks are valuable

Earmarks are just a form of targeted federal funding for specific projects. Earmarks enable Congress to check and control executive spending. They also serve as an important way for local and state concerns to draw on federal funds, and for local knowledge to direct the allocation of this funding. Finally, they are not to blame for corruption. Corruption exploits earmarks like any other spending program. The solution is to make them more transparent and to employ various other reforms that reduce corruption associated with earmarks.

You may want to see Debatepedia's article on the many pros and cons:

http://wiki.idebate.org/index.php/Debate:_Earmarks#Pro

Thanks mate. I really dint

Thanks mate. I really dint understand about ear marks till now. After reading your comment it really helped me a lot in gathering the exact meaning and its purpose and i read the Debatepedia's article too which was very much interesting. Thanks for sharing. edi

prom

Reply

This would be a minor issue in good times, but during the worst economic crisis in decades it's even more irrelevant.
Online Education | Accredited degree programs | online college degree

"Republicans should not be in

"Republicans should not be in the business of defending new and optional spending. It's just not in our DNA as Republicans." - I agree with this.

 

Addicting Games | Free Games | Video Games