Archive for the ‘earmarks’ Category

Earmarks Aren’t Free

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Earmarks by themselves do not add to the cost of the federal budget. Earmarks just direct general funds to be appropriated to specific projects. As a slice of the budget, earmarks represent a small portion.

This does not mean earmarks are not a fiscal problem. Earmarks direct resources away from areas where they would be appropriated. This causes programs to go unfunded until later years when bigger federal budgets come along.

Earmarks are closer to being under control

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Taxpayers for Common Sense has an analysis of the new spending bills including the number and the amount spent on earmarks is down:

During this election year, lawmakers are showing slight restraint in writing the earmarks in the FY 2009 spending bills, according to an analysis by Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) (click here for the new database). The House has increased the number and value of earmarks at about the same rate.  The Senate has cut earmarks by 16% in the spending bills in terms of total dollars. The analysis is based on all the bills that have passed full committee and are awaiting action in both chambers. 


TCS analyzed the available House and Senate Fiscal Year 2009 spending bills and found that earmarks decreased by more than 15% in the Senate and increased nearly 7% in the House compared to the same appropriations bills at the similar point last year. The House increased the number of projects in these bills by 5% from 4,149 in 2008 to 4,367 in 2009 and the Senate reduced total projects from 4,313 in 2008 to 4,093. To some extent this represents the Senate restraining their irrational earmark exuberance of last year. In the six bills that were available for both chambers, the Senate still outstrips the House in total earmark cost: $5.86 billion to $5.12 billion.


One of the more remarkable shifts is a $426 million drop in Senate earmarks for the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development spending bill (the House bill hasn’t been considered yet). This is at least in part due to the cratering of the Highway Trust Fund, which is fueled by the gas tax. Overspending in previous years, coupled with the precipitous drop in gas tax receipts as motorists drive less, has drained the fund and well for earmark spending. The only other bill to have a similar fall on a percentage basis was the Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill, which also fell more than 30%, or $228 million.


But don’t get your hopes up yet;

There are twelve final spending bills for the federal government. So in turn, there are 24 final House or Senate bills. Congress has only released 15 of those bills. With so many bills not considered, including the Defense spending bill that includes more earmarks than each of the House and Senate passed bills, much can still change. And that assumes that the spending bills will move under relatively regular order.

Earmarks is not the end all of spending but earmarks create the quickest route to corruption and may raise the level of overall spending by the Federal Government.

Harvard Political Review

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Harvard Political Review has an article addressing the need to get the appropriations process under control. The article by Pio Szamel points out the corruption that has lately been found in the appropriation process. The article offers two options to get control of the appropriations process limit earmarks or find more accountability:

While the current process is certainly not ideal, the question of how to reform it is a controversial one. One approach is to eliminate earmarks entirely. Some members of Congress, with the support of presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), tried to enact a one-year moratorium this spring. However, the measure failed in the Senate by a 71-29 vote as rank-and-file senators voted to protect the pork that helps their bids for re-election. Nevertheless, clamping down on earmarks remains a priority for many reformers because earmarks are considered to be the easiest avenue for corruption: they provide a mechanism for individual members to direct money to specific causes, groups, and even corporations.

But Adam Hughes of OMB Watch, a non-profit budget watchdog organization, told the HPR that there is another approach to reform: an emphasis on transparency rather than on eliminating all earmarks. “There’s been a lot of negative press around the term earmark,” he explained, before pointing out some valuable projects that were funded by earmarks, such as the Iraq Study Group. Rather than get out of the earmark business entirely, Hughes argued that the problem is accountability, noting that “when you can operate unaccountable to others, you can do whatever you want.” The solution is then to make the process more transparent, thereby fostering accountability.

The article points accountability efforts have been more effective than attempts to limit earmarks.

The article misses the major way to combat government corruption which is to reduce the size of government. Many earmarks are for activities to be performed at a local level. What we need is a change to at the very least to expect a lot less from our federal government.

Fox News Does Some Good For Once

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Fox News has some sort of a political bias that can be summed up as pro-Republican Party, pro-war, anti-Muslim. It is almost amusing the ability of some of the anchors to deviate from the norm.

However, Fox News has done a good job lately by airing an hour long special on earmarks, wasteful spending and Congress.

The contents of the hour long special are below:

McCain goes after Obama on earmarks

Friday, February 15th, 2008

John McCain is not a candidate worth voting for in my mind but John McCain deserves praise for standing up to Obama on earmarks.

While Obama has publicly released his 2007 earmark requests to the Senate Appropriations Committee, he has not released his letters to the committee from 2005 and 2006, according to a Thursday Washington Post story. The Post reported that Obama helped secure $91 million for the projects in the Land of Lincoln in 2007, which McCain said “isn’t chump change.”

“The Senator from Illinois, who says that he wants transparency in government, will not reveal the number of earmarks that he received in 2006 and 2005. Is that transparency in government? I don’t think so. I don’t think so,” McCain said during rally in Vermont–a March 4th primary state. “So I call on the Senator, Senator Obama from Illinois, to go ahead and tell people how much money in earmarked projects and pork barrel projects that he got for his state and what they were for.”

“One of the reasons the American people have lost trust and confidence in us. One of the reasons is because of earmark projects, the pork barrel spending,” McCain added. “My friends, examine my record on pork barrel projects and you will see a big fat zero.”

John McCain requested no earmarks as a Senator in 2007. To have any sort of fiscal control it is important that earmarks are avoided and that various local projects are discussed on the whole.