Add mine to the growing number of voices saying “let’s stop this obsession with earmarks, and get on with some real work – earmarks are not always bad.”
The single-most cogent argument supporting for earmarks can be made this way: Which would you rather have spending the people’s money – an elected public official who depends on the public vote to stay in office; or an unelected, nameless and faceless bureaucrat who is unreachable and uninterested, and unconvincable?
Yes, it’d be better if most of the stupid earmark expenditures weren’t “expended” to begin with. And yes, they are representative of a Washington insider mentality that encourages horse-trading above fiscal responsibility.
But they also provide a mechanism for a Congressman or Senator to override a decision by, for instance, an imperious EPA official.
Earmarks have been defined as “funds provided by Congress for projects or programs where the congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents Executive Branch merit-based or competitive allocation processes, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the Executive Branch to manage critical aspects of the funds allocation process.”
Who can argue against anything which provides a way to circumvent our current Executive Branch? (Lord knows Congressional cronyism can’t be any worse, or less expensive, than Obama-style cronyism.)
And, as much as we would all like to hold to ideological purity, Congress – since its very beginning – lives on compromise (or “horse-trading,” if you will). Compromise was built into its very structure. Compromise was necessary even to create our founding documents.
Make no mistake, I’m not one who cries out for blanket bi-partisanship or compromise in government. On some things, gridlock is GOOD. This constant babbling about how government inaction keeps America from “moving forward” is foolish. On some things, we need to move BACKWARDS, or simply stay where we are. “Moving forward” is too close to “Moveon (dot org)” for me.
But there ARE those times that decisions must be made by government. And if you have two factions whose political views put them in violent opposition, how else are they to effect compromise than through horse-trading at a very personal level?
No, I submit that earmarks are not the problem – stupid and CORRUPT earmarks are. Just as is stupid and corrupt legislation.
And if the only way to get rid of the bad earmarks is to also throw out the good ones and make a symbolic gesture… well, OK, let’s try it. But let’s know that in doing so we are intentionally weakening the branch of government that is most responsive to the people, and strengthening the other two.
And besides – there is much more important work to be done: tax rate extensions, the hobbling of Obamacare, and so much more. Let’s get to it.