Sunday, March 1, 2009

Earmarks ... Corrupt and Corrupting

Has anyone out there been paying attention to the debate over the omnibus budget bill ... and that was just passed by the House of Representatives? It has ~9,000 earmarks ... or pork! In other words, it has ~9,000 spending additions to the bill that are above and beyond what is forecasted by the 2009 budget. It's now before the Senate and the number of personal earmarks for additional funding could rise even higher before it finally heads to President Obama's desk for signature.

As President Obama signed the stimulus bill, he bragged about this claim that there were no earmarks in his stimulus bill — yet he's been silent as he prepares to put his signature on the Omnibus Budget bill that contains 9,000 earmarks. Regardless of whether this bill is a carryover from the Bush days, it's being debated and approved for implementation under the Obama Administration, and as far as I'm concerned, he owns it and it's the equivalent of going back on his campaign promises if he signs it without a word about all of the earmarks.

For those of you who may not understand the term "earmark," the rules committee of the U.S. House of Representatives defines the earmarking process as:

“To set aside funds for a specific purpose, use, or recipient. Generally
speaking, virtually every appropriation is earmarked, and so are certain revenue
sources credited to trust funds. In common usage, however, the term is often
applied as an epithet for funds set aside for such purposes as research
projects, demonstration projects, parks, laboratories, academic grants, and
contracts in particular congressional districts or states or for certain
specified universities or other organizations.”
The earmarking process has become corrupt ... and is corrupting in and of itself. Need a vote for a particular bill? No problem ... use an earmark for some Representative's/Senator's pet project in his/her home state as a bribe to get their vote. Want to assure your re-election? Stuff a bunch of pork in one bill after another to "bring home the bacon" so to speak for your constituents. The problem is that earmarks aren't offsets to the approved budget, they're appropriations above and beyond what's in the approved Federal budget.

According to Senator Harry Reid, "Who better knows the needs of each district and state, he argued, than the members representing those populations? Since we've been a country, we have had an obligation as a Congress to help direct spending," Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill. "We cannot let spending be done by a bunch of nameless, faceless bureaucrats buried in this town someplace."

I take exception to Harry's statement. And let me put that exception in terms that everybody will clearly understand. Your family has a monthly/annual budget. You have fixed (mortgage, car loans, utilities, taxes, etc.) components and discretionary (food, gasoline, clothing, entertainment, etc.) components. You've worked hard to balance your budget so you won't be faced with bankruptcy or foreclosure ... but then all of a sudden ... someone, let's say your mortgage lender comes along and decides that to keep your mortgage, you have to spend money to replace all the carpet in your house, or that you have to add a pole barn in your back yard. You didn't budget for that. There's no income to fund that ... but needless to say ... you now have to comply, because, afterall, the mortgage lender knows best. The homeowner might be forced into bankruptcy or foreclosure.

Well ... by continually approving budgets that contain deficits (more outlays than income), and then by approving one earmarked appropriation after another that is above and beyond the approved budgetary outlays, our elected representatives in Congress are killing the financial and national security of not just us, but our children, and their children as well as their children. It's criminal! At some point, China and Japan will start calling in the debt, and then where will we be?

Related Posts:
In Senate, Bipartisan Love of Earmarks (By Paul Kane)
Are Earmarks Defensible? (Washington Post)

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