Congress is financially schizophrenic. On the one hand, they treat our money as their own, generously allowing us to keep a portion of it after taxes, whatever portion they deem fair. On the other hand, they spend it as if it were other people’s money, as Bernard McGuirk commented on the Hannity show, referring to Congress as “…a pack of teenage girls at the mall with Daddy’s credit card.” The sick thing about it is that they use our own money to bribe us. They take our money, promising to buy us things with it, and expect us to be grateful. Earmarks are one of the most egregious examples of the flagrant violations of the public trust by our elected “servants.”
Often called “pork barrel spending” or “bringing home the bacon,” earmarks are nothing more than bribes to the voters to buy their support, or paybacks to special interests for their support during election, maybe both at the same time. Somehow, though, John Q. Citizen always seems to get the short end of the stick, never getting back what he gave. Who can forget the Alaskan “Bridge to Nowhere,” and that is just one of thousands every year. Both parties are guilty.
Earmarks are a deceptive tool used to obtain funding for projects that could not earn it on their own merit. An earmark is usually attached to a larger, popular bill that is expected to be passed. They may be secretly snuck in at the last minute, therefore unnoticed or ignored at the time of the congressional vote. Or they may be hidden away, a few lines in a much larger bill that isn’t thoroughly read by those voting on it. Sometimes votes are traded, “I’ll vote for yours if you vote for mine.” Sometimes they are the ransom demanded of one party or the other for their support for an important bill. They are almost never germane to the main bill to which they are parasitically attached. They are a blood-sucking tick on a dog. Perhaps one by itself is no big deal, but a thousand of them is pretty gross. (Sorry for the disgusting visual, but earmarks are leeches on our political system that sap its strength, and should be seen as repulsive.)
The earmark system is very susceptible to fraud and abuse. The community may get a park or a youth center or something, but it usually seems that someone lines their pockets somewhere along the way, at our expense, and we are conditioned to like it. We love our congressmen for taking care of us while he is screwing us. It’s insidious.
Besides the strong potential for criminal abuse, earmarks are unethical and unfair to the citizens of other states. Federal taxes collected from the entire nation are used to fund special projects for a small group of citizens in one state or community. From an article in Scripps News , regarding supporters of earmarks:
“Some Republicans defend the right of lawmakers to direct spending. Calif. GOP Rep. Jerry Lewis, one of the leading earmarkers in the House, points to the constitutional provision giving Congress the power of the purse, and argues that representatives of an area often know better than bureaucrats in Washington where money should be spent.”
By that logic then, let’s keep the projects truly local, funded by local taxes and administered by local agencies, rather than routing the money through a Washington middleman, who will somehow manage to divert a large portion of the revenue collected to waste, fraud, or just plain inefficiency. Why not eliminate earmarks altogether, cut back on federal taxes, and let the states or local communities raise the funds for their own projects. I guarantee you, with the monies collected and spent locally, the project could be completed for much less, leaving huge savings for the people. Obviously this makes sense, so why wouldn’t Congress do this? If earmarks are so bad, why do congressmen use this tool? They do it because they can. They all know what is going on, saying, “I’ll scratch your back…” with their wink, wink. Earmarks give them power and control, and because it is such a powerful election tool, they will never give it up without massive pressure from a demanding electorate. The power of the purse is a great temptation, corrupting the vision even of noble men if they let it. That’s why it is so important to demand strong character in our candidates, so that we can trust them to lead wisely and honestly.
On a positive note and with a hint of “hope and change,” the Republicans, led by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA,) forced a moratorium on earmarks this year. They will try to extend the moratorium to next year. If the people become aware and educated about this pernicious vehicle of assault on their pocketbooks, they can and should rise up in support of a permanent ban on earmarks. If ever there were a chance, now is the time. A group whose goal is eliminating government waste is Taxpayers For Common Sense. Check out this site to get informed and involved. A piglet won’t wean itself.