Should We Ban Earmarks?

Let’s talk about this Ban on Earmarks.  It sounds great doesn’t it?  We are dire straits…record deficit, spending is out of control, economy is in a slump, we have to do whatever we can to restrain spending.   So, let’s all get together and Ban Earmarks.  We can see Democrats and Republican’s holding hands, singing Kumbaya…no more Earmarks.  It a wonderful world! 

According to Citizen Against Government Waste there were 9,129 earmarks for $16.5 billion during the 2010 fiscal year (ended October 1).  Sounds like a lot..I think only in D.C. do we scoff at $16.5 billion.  Why don’t we put it in perspective: The president’s 2010 budget totaled about $3.5 trillion. The $16.5 billion in Congressional earmarks is less than one half of one percent of the 2010 budget (.50 cents per $100 bucks).

First, I know some of you are asking what the hell is an earmark.  An earmark is a congressional decision to allocate part of appropriation for a particular purpose.  Members of Congress tend to use Earmarks for pet projects in their home district.  (You might remember the Alaska Bridge to nowhere.  I always loved the money spent to study why people don’t smile in bowling alleys…that’s right folks..we paid for that study.  I just wish I know the outcome!) 

But, I don’t want to mislead you..not all Earmarks are bad.  In 2010, over $2 billion in earmarks went to colleges and universities.  (The 3rd highest amount of earmarks for a University went to my alma matter, Texas A&M University…I swear I had nothing to do with it.)  Earmarks were used to improve armor for soldiers in Afghanistan and to purchase Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAV) to expand the patrol area of Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) on our borders.   Money is earmarked for pot hole repairs, medical equipment for hospitals, food banks, charities for inner city children and many other good things.  It’s not all bad.

So, what does an Earmark ban really mean?  No more money for Members of Congress’ pet projects.  Does this mean we are going to save $16.5 Billion?  No, it just means discretion of this spending now goes to Federal Agencies.   Eliminating the allocation doesn’t reduce the appropriation, it simply leaves the allocation decision to someone other than Members of Congress.  Do we really think those decisions won’t be political?  Federal Agencies are run by political appointees who carry out the Agenda of their boss (the President).  Same issue..different people. 

I would back an earmark ban if they said we are going to ban Earmarks AND not spend the money normally allotted for Earmarks. Otherwise a ban on earmarks doesn’t mean a darn thing.

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One Response to Should We Ban Earmarks?

  1. Ernie says:

    good stuff jen. i learned something from this post. thanks.

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