Earmarks need to truly be eliminated
Published: Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Should Congress eliminate earmark spending?
Sometimes being an American citizen feels more like being the parent of a bratty kid. You turn your back for one minute and they have their spit covered fingers in the cookie jar and are ready to set the house on fire in an attempt to make s'mores in the living room.
In a way, we're all the not-so-proud parents of a bouncing baby Congress.
Lets take the case of the congressional ban on earmarks. They may have only accounted for less than a half a percent of the total federal budget, but we the people were angered by the fact that Congress was simply attaching pet projects to bills that were all but guaranteed to pass.
We don't like being taken for fools. The projects may have been useful or they may not have been, the problem was that it was circumventing normal oversight procedures. Public opinion turned strongly against earmarks, so the Republican-led Congress banned the practice.
Finally, our most potent governing body actually listened to the will of the people.
See, rather than leaving well enough alone, Congress included 26 different funds for the Army Corps of Engineers to spend on construction and other projects that weren't originally in President Obama's final bill.
Add up the funds, and you have about as much money as was put into earmarks in 2010.
If you think this is déjà vu, you're right. Last year something remarkably similar happened where the House Armed Services Committee created a billion dollar special fund that allowed members to add amendments that funneled money to their own districts.
Members of the committee said the amendments weren't earmarks, but once the public found out that over half of the 225 amendments added were earmarks before the ban there was almost no way to defend it. The amendments were removed.
Now it's happening again, only more sneakily.
Americans don't have the ability to babysit every little action Congress does. We have jobs, school, and our own lives to deal with, and each time we get outraged and do our part to get the government back in line it just finds another way to do what it wanted to anyway.
Sure, it might amount to only a .5 percent reduction in spending even if every single earmark-style fund were eliminated, but it's not just about the money. It's not going to be long before Social Security needs a complete restructure in order to not fail, and that accounts for literally 40 times the amount of spending.
If we can't be sure that Congress can handle a measly half percent, how can we be confident that it can manage any more?
Congress has to gain back our confidence. First, they need to make the ban on earmarks completely permanent. It's not about being in a bad economic climate; it's about preventing it from getting this way again.
Second, the system needs to be reformed on the legal level. A law must be written to ensure that the ban is actually followed, because a simple rule is obviously not good enough.
Only time will tell if Congress actually cares about doing what we want rather than trying to get re-elected. We're just hoping there's enough time left.