Thursday, March 12, 2009


The earmarks issue has been around for years and paid any attention. The line item veto has been talked about for years with no action from either party. We now have a President who believes that earmarks are “an old way of doing business”. He even signed the current bill – with its thousand of earmarks – in private. His characterization of the imperfect bill is correct but he signed it anyway. There was no imminent deadline. It could have been sent back to Congress all of the pork removed and resubmitted without the government coming to a stop.
He proposes to have rules for earmarks – in the next bailout bill – which are laughable. In the future, every earmark will have a “legitimate and worthy public purpose”. That is not a rule; that is rhetoric. It just means that he has a vague sense that the current earmarks do not meet this criterion but he isn’t going to do anything about it. Unfortunately, the future earmarks will be reviewed under existing standard of “you approve mine and I’ll approve yours”. Everyone gets to say that the standard is met and the circle continues.
The related comments by Steve Israel and the Democratic leaders further eliminate the possibility of any real commitment to change. Representative Israel announced that he will no longer seek earmarks to for profit companies; Representative Pelosi announces that earmarks to for profit companies have to be competitively bid. So, the for profit company who contributed to their election campaign still gets the help (just from the low bidder) and John Kerry still sponsors the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate – but that doesn’t have to go through the nasty bidding process. The chances of Senator Kerry eventually working at this Institute are excellent.
Even the proposal to have the earmarks published on the sponsor’s website means that earmarks would be scattered over hundreds of government websites. Publishing a consolidated list of all earmarks and who sponsored them was not considered. That would be way too much information for the public to have.

The simple solution is that there should be no earmarks. The only reason they exist is to allow professional politicians to further their own agenda. They are either payback for past and future campaign contributions or providing places for them hide when they are voted out (see the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate).

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