I’m a Redskins fan, so I know disappointment. Apparently, there are signals that the incoming Republican Congress is considering disappointing us regarding earmarks. All Republican senators and apparently a significant number of representatives signed a pledge before the election to forego asking for earmarks and/or eliminating the practice. (I could not find a list of those who signed such a pledge; perhaps that’s an ominous sign itself.) Here are four reasons the people we elected should keep their pledge.
First, there is the matter of keeping one’s word. For these people, men and women we elected to Congress to change the way business is done, not to follow through on one promise immediately lets us know that they are not to be depended upon. If they won’t keep their word regarding earmarks because it’s not convenient or they feel pressure from career politicians, why should we expect them to end deficit spending or keep the oath they will make to uphold and defend the Constitution? If they will not forego and otherwise work to eliminate earmarks, we should immediately begin looking for their replacements.
Second, earmarks confuse the legislative process. Earmarks and other unrelated provisions should not be attached to important legislation. Why should a congressman have to vote for extending education programming in Vermont or aquaculture fisheries in Arkansas in order to pass an omnibus spending bill for legitimate federal activities? Incidentally, these were actual earmarks in the just defeated omnibus bill. If these earmarks will not pass on their own, why should a legislator have to consider them when voting to fund our military?
Third, open honest government requires bills uncluttered with unrelated earmarks. Eliminating earmarks is a good first step to eliminating thousand plus page bills, making it easier (possible?) for those we elect to legislate to READ the legislation they vote on. I cannot imagine reading a thousand pages of legalese in three days and understanding it. How many of our congressmen have done that even twice, especially considering that they have to consider thousands of bills every session? Incidentally, eliminating earmarks would give private citizens half a chance to read and understand pending legislation and our representatives know what we think about it.
Last, while eliminating earmarks wouldn’t come close to eliminating the deficit, it would be a good start. Eight or ten billion dollars is less than one-half of one percent of a 3.7 trillion dollar budget, but it is real money. It’s eight or ten billion dollars we are not borrowing from the Chinese or printing like Monopoly money.
Earmarks are relatively easy to eliminate. It’s also easy to monitor who is sending pork back to their districts. Republicans, we are watching you on this one. Don’t blow it.