Eliminating Earmarks Would Be Disastrous
November 17, 2010
(ChattahBox Op/Ed) – Earmarks, pork, bringing home the bacon, it all means the exact some thing in the political world and yesterday the Republican members of the Senate made a pledge that they would ban earmarks from the next fiscal budget. The idea, supported largely by Tea Party candidates in the most recent election, on the surface sounds like the right idea. In essence, that infamous Bridge to Nowhere that became the poster child for earmarks would be eliminated. Great, save the exception that there not only were many worthy programs and projects funded that way, but the savings would amount to less than one half of one percent of the actual budget.
I’m all for cutting our deficit and it is something that President Obama is seriously working on. His Commission on debt reduction made a preliminary report last week that laid out what we may expect them to recommend and without all the details being public at this time, these recommendations will be painful to some and necessary if we are serious about tackling the massive deficit that will plague us long into the future if something isn’t done, so the question becomes simple: will eliminating earmarks solve the problem of our skyrocketing deficit?
Because of the massive need to find a path to financial stability, you can certainly make the argument that any cuts get us closer to the goal, right? But we also have to look at the programs and projects that will be eliminated by these cuts and ask ourselves if the return on the investment is worth it. Earmarks are responsible for many critical programs and projects that are happening in your local community. It can take the form of road projects, or needed repairs to utility infrastructure. It may be about buying land for the building of a new school or demolishing buildings in an area of a community that desperately needs revival but the money to clear that land is not available. Clearly there is an important need for earmarks, but it is lawmakers themselves that made earmarks a dirty word because it was these very same people, of both political parties, that caused the problem to begin with.
A few years back the House instituted new rules that required every member of the House to make publically available through their website a list of all earmarks that they were asking for. Until that time the earmarks were a secret and without any public knowledge the ease of asking for money to study bat guano to the tune of $16 million went unaccredited. The new House rule was significant and allowed for the kind of transparency that was important to the average political observer: you and me. The Senate didn’t feel this rule suited them and have yet to adopt it, but what the House effectively did was out members of Congress that were gouging the system and allowing for political payback. With full public disclosure of their earmarks you got to judge what was worthy and what was not and suddenly you had a say in earmarks in the House and still do.
Every lawmaker is expected to “bring home the bacon” for their district. It is one of the reasons we elect and send a representative to Congress. It is a reality of the political process, and done with transparency it works.
So we now have to ascertain what are the Republican members of the Senate really trying to do with their pledge to eliminate earmarks? The easy answer is to save money, and it would, but if we weigh that against the jobs and investments that that money provides are we actually talking about a net loss as opposed to a net gain? You don’t have to be terribly imaginative to see that the answer is a fast “yes we are”.
Playing politics for appearance sake is great sport but it is also a terrible way of delaying needed opportunity. Eliminating earmarks for the sake of rhetoric further delays and damages our economic revival and if we continue to believe what the GOP is wanting you to believe you are going to find out quite soon that the elimination of earmarks equaled the elimination of progress.
Tony Trupiano is a former national syndicated progressive radio talk show host, author, and a former candidate for Congress. He is also a nationally recognized media trainer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and can read his Blog at www.mediatraining.me.