When the News Isn't Fit to Print ... Blog

Inhofe is Right About Earmarks

In Bowling for Dollars, Harvard Math, Obamarama, The Wrong Right Turn on 11/11/2010 at 19:24

Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe

Since John McCain blustered on ad nauseam about earmarks during the 2008 presidential race I have said that Republicans are painting themselves into a corner. McCain was on a roll, he had touched a vein with a public fed up with big-spending bureaucrats. Suddenly earmarks became synonymous with “pork barrel spending” and huge government waste.

But earmarks are not necessarily pork. The terms are not the same at all. In a nutshell, pork barrel spending is legislation that benefits only one member of Congress’s constituency (even if that constituency is a state). In other words it serves only a local or special interest, it has no specific congressional authorization and has not been requested by the president.

The earmark, on the other hand, is a legislative provision that designates part of the approved funds within a bill to be spent on a specific project. It may also direct a specific tax or mandated fee exemption. When used properly an earmark will be a project designed to serve a larger sector society, not just one isolated interest.

Granted, sometime earmarks appear to benefit one small congressional district, and there are certainly cases where this has been true, but Congress wants to be darned sure it wants to cede away its power on this relatively benign spending measure. After all Congress is charged with sole right of spending in the Constitution.

So, the question arises: exactly who do John McCain and Jim DeMint want to cede their spending authority to? Barack Obama or some future president? Because that is exactly what they will be doing if their moratorium on earmarks passes.

Barak Obama’s 2009 stimulus package was rife with earmarks that qualify as pork. There were exemptions for unions and other liberal special interest groups. There were pet projects all over the place paid out as favors for Obama’s campaign supporters. “Porkulus,” I believe Michelle Malkin has called it.

The earmark has become a conservative political buzzword to symbolize government waste and out-of-control spending, but eliminating Congress’s right to earmark bills will be overly restrictive and will effectively cede legislators’ right to designate spending to the executive branch. A terrible idea.

Senators James Inhofe and Mitch McConnell are right. Earmarks should be managed by the party leadership in Congress; if a particular legislator gets out of hand with the pork it should be handled in house.

Ultimately, the voter should be the arbiter of Congressional misconduct; if a representative or senator is an out of control spender, we should vote him or her out of office. We’ve only to do our job.

If John McCain and Jim DeMint—and I dig this guy—want to crusade for spending cuts, they would be well advised to start with defunding Obamacare and move on to abolishing the departments of Education and Energy. Wage war on discretionary spending.

If, however, Republicans want to be symbolic, they should cut their salaries. The so-called “Bridge to Nowhere” may pull big headlines, but its elimination in the federal budget didn’t pay Nancy Pelosi’s discretionary spending budget for a week.

The 2010 midterm election was about responsibility. Congress has been irresponsible for decades, but we should not attack that delinquency by limiting its powers. John McCain and Jim DeMint should demand that legislators man up and do their jobs, not rewrite their job descriptions.

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