Republicans and Democrats: Bad on Earmarks

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 and is filed under Uncategorized

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While I think there is some pandering going on here with Claire McCaskill, it is nice to see she and Pat Toomey attempting to end the practice of earmarks once and for all. Obviously, there is the usual handwringing from Members of Congress: “We can’t give up this right! If we do some Administration will abuse it!” It is a smoke and mirrors argument.

Let’s go over why earmarks are bad:

  • The practice of earmarks allows government to pick winners and losers, which distorts the free-market and undermines competition,  damaging the economy.
  • Members of Congress regularly use earmarks to curry favor with special interest groups, campaign contributors, and even to fund certain charities.  Earmarks to charity force taxpayers to finance a charity even if they object to the purpose or mission of the charity.
  • The earmarking process circumvents important taxpayer protections, such as competitive bidding, merit-based reviews, and oversight. Earmarks often cause the government to overpay for goods and services, leading to waste, fraud, and abuse.
  • Many earmarks cause the federal government to interfere with state and local priorities, which leads to waste, or higher taxes, by those governments.
From the Washington Post’s article:

Despite recurrent calls to crack down on earmarks, the practice had reached a peak before the moratorium. The Congressional Research Service found that earmark spending nearly tripled over a 15-year period, to $31.9 billion in 2010, the year before the ban.

I don’t know about you, but $31.9 billion is a lot of money. Some argue with a $15 trillion national debt, it is not. But it is and on top of it being a very large number there is the corrupting influence of earmarks. When my dad was in Congress, stories of leadership “bribing” Members with earmarks for their votes on things like Medicare Part D and other awful, government expanding programs were frequent and well known. Current OK Senator from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn, calls earmarks the “gateway drug” to the expansion of government largesse.

I hope McCaskill and Toomey’s bill passes both chambers of Congress. It will not be the cure all solution, but it sure will be a step in the right direction.