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Earmarks – an insanity that will not die

The House Republicans are not even in the driver’s seat yet. The 112th Congress has not even been sworn in and already we have representatives bemoaning the fact that “it’s just hard to be a congressman without resorting to earmark funding.” (Earmark is the politically-correct word for pork-barrel spending).

It would appear that the incoming Republicans are being stricken with the same disease that got them tossed from power in the 2006 elections. After swearing to us in the name of Sarah Palin and all things conservative that they “got it,” we elected them.

We gave them the keys again.

And it seems they’ve immediately forgotten what the American people were screaming at them during the whole rotten campaign season, and they’re intent on running that bus right over the cliff of fiscal insanity.

This is what we get in response to the American taxpayer’s demand for change? We’re tired of Congress spending money like an eighteen-year-old with an unlimited trust fund.

Earmarks have notoriously been associated with waste, but politicians have guarded them like a favorite child. The rational of most Congress members is that of Father (or Mother) knows best when it comes to state spending. Besides, if they don’t ask for earmarks to benefit their states, then that money will just go to another state.

Let’s see if we can clear up some of the myths surrounding the debate.

1. Eliminating earmarks does not save taxpayer money.

This is flawed logic. Congress has spent $16.1 billion on earmarks this fiscal year. It logically follows that if Congress places a ban on earmarks, there will be $16.1 billion more dollars that could be reallocated for something more useful—like reducing the deficit!

2. Earmarks are such a minute portion of the federal budget that getting rid of them will barely affect the budget anyway.

That kind of thinking is why we are in such terrible debt in the first place. Oh…what’s 1.7 million dollars for pig odor research going to hurt? And since we are already broke, another $650,000 for beaver management in North Carolina won’t do any harm either. (These are honest-to-goodness earmarks your money was spent on last fiscal year.) If taxpayers ran their personal budgets using that same line of thinking, we would all have huge house payments, cars we can’t afford, and ridiculous amounts of credit card debt we could barely afford the interest on. (Wait a minute…that sounds vaguely familiar.) When you are broke every penny counts, and our nation is broke to the umpteenth power.

Over 90,000 earmarks have been passed over the last decade. Is it just a coincidence that the size of government has doubled during that same time period?  Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

3. Earmarking is about who wears the wallet. Is it the job of those we elect to Congress to decide how to spend taxes , or should those decisions be left to unelected  bureaucrats and those Obama has appointed to his administration?

While none of the above seems like a better choice, it is not an option. Shouldn’t we have the right to spend our own money the way we see fit in our state and local communities? Earmarks say, “You will just spend your entire allowance on gum, so mommy and daddy will tell you how to spend it instead.” And then mommy and daddy spend it on a tattoo-removal violence outreach program.  A ban on earmarks would show we, the people, that Congress is starting to come around a little bit. It’s not like it would affect their spending power. Maybe they could take the time they spend writing earmarks and find some innovative ways to cut government spending.

4.  The Constitution explicitly gives Congress the responsibility and authority to earmark.

Ridiculous. This statement is supported by members of Congress who wear big government colored glasses. Our Founding Fathers did everything they could to keep government as small and less intrusive as possible. The Constitution gives Congress the right to hold the purse, but there is nothing in there about a bag of cracklings. Let’s look at what Thomas Jefferson had to say to James Madison in contempt of federally-funded projects. ““[I]t will be the source of eternal scramble among the members, who can get the most money wasted in their State; and they will always get the most who are the meanest.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Now that we have debunked some myths let’s look at the reality of earmarks.

1. They offer no accountability and they waste an enormous amount of time.

In an average year the numbers of earmark requests outnumber oversight hearings by 1,000:1. Earmarks also provide a smokescreen for the ridiculous amount of waste and inefficiency within federal agencies.

2. The American People have spoken.

The elections made it clear that the taxpayers want our government to spend less money. Disallowing earmarks are one step down the path to a balanced budget. The GOP has to either respect the decision the American people have made or find a way to ignore their wishes.

3. Earmarking is simply bad form.

Earmarks do not create jobs and they do not drive economic growth.  A study by Harvard University found that they actually have the opposite effect. “It was an enormous surprise, at least to us, to learn that the average firm in the chairman’s state did not benefit at all from the unanticipated increase in spending,” said Joshua Coval, one of the study’s authors The study found that capital investment and expenditures by private businesses actually decrease by 14 percent. Earmarks are hindering private investment which slows job growth. They also keep high-priority items from receiving the funding they need.

4. Earmarking is bad politics.

Voters are watching every move our politicians make right now. This is not the time for them to send mixed signals. We made it clear we expect changes last election day. The impossible spending has got to stop. The nation can no longer afford the excesses of the Washington credit card.

Either we get our congressmen and senators under control, or we start getting our off-grid plan together as fast as we can. It seems that Capitol Hill is determined to drive all of us into the poor house.

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