Back in 2006, when the Democrats took control of the House and the Senate, I praised them on BreakPoint for promising to clean up Congress. And especially for promising to put an end to the corrupt practice of earmarking—that’s when our elected representatives in Congress slip expenditures into the budgeting process without debate.
Well, I should have known better. This bunch of Democratic legislators is no better than the Republicans they ousted.
In fact, this year, in the midst of a financial crisis no less, the amount of pork in this year’s appropriations bill, passed this week, stinks to high heaven. Literally.
The New York Post reports, for example, that Congress has allocated $1.7 million for “swine odor and manure management research.”
Senator Daniel Inouye, a longtime veteran of the Senate, managed to get the Polynesian Voyaging Society of Honolulu $238,000. For what? So it can organize “sea voyages in ancient-style sailing canoes like the ones that first brought settlers to Hawaii.”
That’s a great use of taxpayer money in the midst of what the White House is calling the most challenging economic crisis since the Great Depression.
The group Taxpayers for Common Sense claims that the current appropriations bill contains a whopping 8,750 earmarks, at a cost of $7.7 billion.
When confronted with their profligate spending, Democratic leaders defended themselves, according to the Post, by asserting that “up to 40 percent of the earmarks” came from the hands of Republican legislators.
Shame on me, again, for thinking the Republicans would have learned their lesson from the last two elections. They haven’t.
In one sense, earmarking is nothing but pure bribery in reverse. It’s a congressman’s or senator’s way of buying votes from the constituents back home.
The practice is an abomination. It violates the biblical understanding of the limited role of government—which is to preserve order and to promote justice—and it also rejects the principles on which our representative democracy was built.
As I’ve said on BreakPoint before, to America’s founders, lawmaking was supposed to be about advancing the common good—not wheeling and dealing in order to hold on to power. The Founders built into the Constitution checks and balances, in the words of the Federalist Papers, “to pit ambition against ambition and make it impossible for any elements of government to obtain unchecked power.” That’s precisely what we see happening with earmarks.
President Obama campaigned for change. And he’s been preaching the virtue of fiscal responsibility. Well, he now has a unique opportunity to bring those about. Senator McCain has reportedly urged the President to veto this pile of pork.
And I agree. What better way to signal real, substantial change in Washington than by vetoing a massive appropriations bill filled with earmarks?
If you agree with me, let the President and your legislators know we really do want change in Washington—and that means no more earmarks.