Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ear Mark Debate: Good Politics or Bad Policy?

With the recent waive of Tea Partiers invading the US Congress, Ear Marks, or Pork Barrel spending, are under fire... again.  This time, the efforts to end Ear Marks come with the new found clout of the Tea Party, and the GOP is getting in line.

Quickly, Ear Marks are money used by congress to fund special projects, most of the time, within the congresspersons home district or state. (If you recall, in the 2008 elections... Sarah Palin's support then convenient repudiation  of the "Bridge To Nowhere" is an example of an Ear Mark.) 

On Tuesday, with the measured support of the GOP's incoming Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, the Senate and House GOP passed a two year moratorium on Ear Mark spending.

From abcNEWS:
The resolution, which is non-binding, is identical to the one approved by House Republicans in the current Congress and forbids Republicans from engaging in the practice of funnelling federal tax dollars to pet projects in their home states. 
Side Note: House Democrats have restricted earmarks for private contractors but not outlawed them entirely. 

The idea is that restricting (and maybe eventually banning) Ear Marks will help in the reduction of "out-of-control" spending and even reduce the deficit.  The debate is whether or not this is tangible or symbolic.  Ear Marks account for less than 1% of the entire federal budget.  It's like removing all the water fountains at Niagara Falls and proclaiming the area is dryer.  While I kid, let's make no mistake, that 1% translates to over $15 billion.  And while in the whole scheme of things, that is a drop in the bucket, as my grandmother use to say "A penny saved is a penny earned."  A reduction in spending, IF the money is used to pay down the debt, is still a reduction in spending AND it can be used as a "talking point" that the congress is listening (to at least one side) and taking action, which, by itself, could do tons for the low morale and approval of congress.

On the other hand, people that run for congress do so on the mantle that they will go to Washington and fight for the people IN THEIR DISTRICT/STATE.  One of the problems great things about our government is that every state and district has representation in the US Congress.  Do we expect people who DO NOT live in Seattle Washington (or insert any city/state) to have that states best interests at heart?  Should they know about the needs of those in that area.  It seems to me that without Ear Marks, you leave the allocation of resources up to the Executive Office... and NO ONE wants that.  Do the Tea Party members REALLY understand that this increases the President's power?  The Executive Office will decide where that money goes instead of the representatives of needing districts.  Also, ONLY those who can really lobby for money will get it...and we already don't like them, and are trying to ban them as well.

I TRULY understand the need to reduce the deficit and reduce spending.  I'm all for it.  I WANT IT!  But can we be smart about this?  Is this REALLY the right way?  To me, this ban sounds like it is very good Politics, but very bad Policy.  Isn't that ironic? The new members are voted in to tend to Policy and not Politics and yet here we are.  Are we SO hell bent on federal spending that we don't want the areas and people that need it to get it?  What should money be spent on?  What SHOULD be cut?  Maybe that is why the Republicans are finding it hard to get members to join the appropriations committee.  You can't get money for your state or district, you want to cut everything, but you don't want to be the person to do it?  REALLY?  "Is that air you're breathing?"  I guess they are just getting their ducks in order for 2012.

Do we really expect our representatives to go to DC, and NOT try to get money for their home districts and states? 
Isn't this a CORE CONSTITUTIONAL function of congress?
This doesn't mean that there isn't a need for improved transparency or monitor misuse (if it is there) but funneling money to your state or district for roads, grants, improvements, jobs and business growth, shouldn't be viewed as a bad thing... should it?
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