March 19, 2008
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Porkers of the Month:
Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) named all 71 senators who voted against a one-year earmark moratorium March Porkers of the Month. The amendment to the fiscal year 2009 Budget Resolution was offered by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and had fourteen bipartisan co-sponsors including the support of all three presidential candidates.
“King of Pork” Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) dismissed the earmark ban saying, “The idea that an all-knowing, all-powerful executive bureaucracy is more trustworthy than the elected representatives of the people when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars challenges the most basic tenet of our political system.”
In a similar vein, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) opposed the ban as “unrealistic” and even went so far as to erroneously claim that earmarking “has been going in this country for 230-some-odd years,” and that “The Founding Fathers would be cringing to hear people talking about eliminating earmarks.”
There is a proper system for projects to be vetted by agencies (the “all-knowing, all-powerful” bureaucrats) that’s fallen by the wayside. Congress did not earmark extensively until the 1980s. Instead, Congress would fund general grant programs and let federal and state agencies select individual recipients through a competitive process or formula. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees named specific projects only when they had been vetted and approved by authorizing committees. Members of Congress with local concerns would lobby the president and federal agencies for consideration. The process was aimed at preventing abuse and allocating resources on the basis of merit and need.
Today, Appropriations Committee members arbitrarily pick winners and losers by earmarking funds for specific recipients.
It's not only wasteful, but it contributes -- significantly -- to corruption.