Monday, March 9, 2009

Some Thoughts on Earmark Reform

Yesterday, I posted an obvious contradiction from Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) regarding earmarks. In short, he said there needed to be earmark reform, he went after the President for not getting tougher on earmarks like he said he would during the election, and then went on to defend his earmark request of $950,000 for a convention center in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Ha! Ha! Talking out of each side of your mouth again, eh Lindsay? You’re so busted!

It’s an easy target, for sure. However his defense of his earmark stuck with me. Isn’t he supposed to bring home money for his constituents? Isn’t this like a mini stimulus? The $950,000 for his district will create jobs in construction and hospitality for many years to come. I came to the realization that earmarks, like most things, aren’t so cut and dry.

During the election, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) claimed that he could instantly cut $100 billion in wasteful “pork barrel” spending from the budget. It sounds good. If there was ever an entity that could save some money, it’s the Government, right? He said that in two years, George W. Bush signed two large spending bills, one for $35 billion and one for $65 billion totaling, conveniently enough, $100 billion. But big round numbers and easy rally pops do not make good policy. If he did enact his policy and cut his proposed $100 billion, he might have saved us from some bad spending, but what good spending would he have stopped?

We have a situation where we need to prime the economic pump. Congress passed and the President signed the $780 billion stimulus package. Now, the Senate is debating the $7.7 billion omnibus, complete with 8.570 earmarks. My local NBC affiliate listed the earmarks pegged for our area, and I have to say, these are good things. Things like money for public transportation, the YMCA, and autistic kids is money well spent. Without earmarks, funding for these things would be next to impossible.

There is no question that the Government has a long, storied history of wasting our money. Obviously, any system that allows legislators add last minute pork amendments anonymously needs some fixing. We can all agree that oil companies do not need subsidies slipped into well intentioned bills. However, I don't think it's wise policy to ban something that could do some real good. Whatever rule changes they make, transparency is a must. The public must know when shady deals go down and we must make those responsible answer. When good, noble plans are enacted, then we should appreciate those responsible.

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