Why Congressional Earmarks Have to Go

Tue, Nov 23, 2010

Big Government, Corruption, Earmarking, Waste

Over at the Legal Insurrection blog (a wonderful blog that we’d suggest you read regularly) a poster suggests that people who oppose earmarks are “Sweating the Small Stuff“, writing:

On one hand, the whole notion of earmarks and pork barrel spending encourages many impractical pet projects from doofy legislators. To see their ban would send a message to the fiscally irresponsible politicians, on both sides of the aisle, who misuse (our) federal tax dollars. On the other hand,eliminating 100 percent of earmarks in fiscal 2010 would have cut the federal budget by less than one-half of one percent.  In other words, earmarks are close to the least of our worries.

She’s actually mistaken, and she’s making a common mistake because she doesn’t understand the role earmarks play in the legislative process.  They are a lever whose spending impact is far greater than what they appear to be.

Look at this issue from another angle.  For just .5% of government spending, why is there such resistance from Congressional Leadership (on both sides of the aisle) against getting rid of them?  That’s the question to ask.  Once you ask it and look closely, you see why.

Earmarks are an effective tool to manipulate Congressional voting blocks.

Take “Legislation A” that does not stand-alone well and cannot muster majority support.

Then take “Project B” that a single legislator wants in his district.  It favors one group of people (say, a state or city) at the expense of all others.  As a stand-alone project B could never pass legislatively if introduced alone.

You’d think that because the legislation and the project don’t stand well on their own that combining them would also result in something that doesn’t stand alone well.

You’d be wrong.

What if I told you that the way Congress does business now often leads to Legislation A passing while (and because) it includes project B?

It happens all the time and earmarks are what makes it possible.

Congressional Leadership can pass legislation that otherwise could not garner a majority if they will throw in pet projects (in the form of earmarks) to buy votes.  See, they are giving a bribe to a legislator so that the legislator can go back home and tout the fact that his district got project B funded and put in place (a targeted benefit) while refusing to call attention to the bad legislation they passed (a dispersed cost).

When costs are dispersed but benefits targeted, that’s where corruption and vote buying will most emerge and where special interests most come to play.

So – because of earmarks – you end up with the combination of bad legislation that includes bad and wasteful projects.

Votes are bought through earmarking grants.

It’s like logrolling, but unlike traditional logrolling, it’s a crack-cocaine version …

Without earmarks big, bad, costly legislation is less able to be forced through.

Get rid of earmarking, and you get rid of the “lever” through which some of our worst legislation has been passed.

Please subscribe to our RSS feed and join our Facebook group.


This post was written by:

- who has written 71 posts on Small Business Against Big Government.

Comments are closed.