The proposed federal budget for the 2011-year, as usual, runs a record deficit. Every year our esteemed leaders call for getting rid of wasteful spending, for reigning in programs that have become bloated and outlived their usefulness, and stopping special interest favors.
And as usual, none of this has happened. This year in particular there was a huge outcry against earmarks. And “earmark” is a specific request for money to be sent to a pet project of a particular congressman. The item is usually of dubious benefit to anyone but the person or institution receiving the funds, and are relatively small in the overall budget picture, ranging from tens of thousands to millions of dollars.
Politicians like earmarks because they can claim to be “bringing home the bacon,” in that when they are up for reelection, they can show they got Federal funds for their district or state. These items aren’t debated or discussed; it’s more situations where the congressmen take a “don’t look at mine and I won’t look at yours” type of attitude toward each other. And many are even described in such general terms that it’s not clear where they are going, and in essence end up being used as “rewards” for big campaign contributors.
But this year, with the budget running such a huge deficit, and with a “change Washington” mentality being something looked at with favor by the public, a bill actually was proposed that would ban earmarks.
No less a staunch supporter of earmarks, Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, even came on board, stating that he was switching to the side calling for a ban on earmarks because the time had come to show the American public that they were serious about taking action against wasteful spending.
With all these congressman crying out for an end to the practice, and President Obama chiming in that we can’t afford earmarks any longer, you would think that it would finally be coming to an end. Well, this is Washington, my friends.
Senator O’Connell may be speaking out against it, but the proposed budget has $85 million of his personal earmarks in it. In fact, the bill has 6,714 earmarks, costing taxpayers (just another word for us, or should I say our grandchildren, since they’ll be paying back the money we’re borrowing to pay for all this nonsense) $8.3 billion. In as solid a show of hypocrisy as you will find, 21 Republicans and four Democrats, who voted to ban earmarks put in their claims in the budget. Vote one way, and act another… the definition of a hypocrite, no?
Even the stalwart movement to reign in government, the Tea Party, is no exception to the rule. The movement calls for limited government and massive cuts to Federal spending. Yet they can’t even agree on this small step. The “Tea Party Caucus,” the members of congress supported by the movement, requested 764 earmarks totaling over $1 billion.
Even the poster boy for the Tea Party, Rand Paul of Kentucky, has turned his back on the cause. One of the key points of his campaign was stopping all the crazy spending. But after winning the election, Paul told the Wall Street Journal that he ‘will fight for Kentucky’s share of earmarks and federal pork,’ suggesting it would be crazy not to.
Mind you, I’m not singling out the, mostly Republican, congressman who are taking part in this. I will give props to the few honorable ones. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, and Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, both of whom have been targets of sharp criticism from me in the past, withdrew all their earmarks, stating they felt after voting to ban them they had to. So obviously it can be done if one has the backbone.
There are those who say all this is no big deal, that earmarks are only one percent of the Federal budget. That is true, but that just highlights the problem with the way these jerks who spend our money think about our hard earned dollars. You know how many taxpayers it takes to pay $0.3 billion in taxes? Do you want your own hard earned money to go to the pet project of some Senator from Kentucky? I don’t want them to use my money for that.
It also encourages overspending, not only on the particular earmarks a congressman may have in the bill, but it then requires him to vote for other earmarks, since he is counting on others to vote for his. And the budget as a whole gets less scrutiny, because if you have in it what you personally want, you’re less likely to look closely at the whole picture, and vote against a wasteful budget. You have your piece of the pie, so you go along with everything else.
A moratorium on earmarks, small though the impact may be on overall spending, just may show there is the ability in Washington to get something done that everyone seems to agree is a step in the right direction. With confidence in Congress at an all-time low, something like that would certainly be helpful.
And finally, it would be a first step in the fight against corruption, albeit a small one. Our lawmakers are funneling millions of our tax dollars to companies that then turn around and shower these same politicians with campaign donations. While congressmen, of course, deny that this is going on, watchdogs say the evidence is obvious, and that it is prevalent in both parties.
But the biggest reason to stop this is that while all these congressman proclaim, loud and clear, that we need to cut waste, reduce spending, and get our fiscal house in order, they then go and pass budgets that are bigger than ever, more bloated than ever, and more corrupt than ever. Stopping this shameful practice would at least show a small, miniscule step in the right direction; that they can actually do something, anything, about the spending problem. C’mon guys, stop being hypocrites, and take this little step. It’s in your power. Show us you have some semblance of honor. Get rid of earmarks once and for all.