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Earmarks a waste of time, not money

Submitted by on Tuesday, 24 February 2009 No Comment
My congressman is against "partisan, pet projects." He told me so in a screed last month about the stimulus bill that didn't answer what I'd written him about.

My congressman is so worried about the government "collapsing on itself" that he's not going to request earmarks anymore.

What a stunning turnaround for U.S. Rep. George Radanovich, who is responsible for $9.5 million in earmarked spending in this year's budget, $4.2 million of it with him as the solo backer, according to a Taxpayers for Common Sense database.

The thing is, I can scroll through Radanovich's list from last year at legistorm.com and see merit in most projects. I'm sure someone from Florida could review it, though, and call every last one needless  spending.

I could in turn look at a $32 million "civic education program" earmarked by half the Senate and understand why the federal budget's a mess if we have to spend that much to educate Congress and state Legislatures. But I bet someone in Indiana, the state targeted for the spending, could come up with a passionate defense.

Which is why eliminating pork barrel is a lot like trying to purge the guys' rooms. What looks like junk to me is a treasured toy to them.

The party out of power - that explains Republican Radanovich's earmark epiphany - expends a ton of effort trying to whip up outrage about earmarks, but the truth is they account for only about 1 percent of the federal budget. Granted, $20 billion still is real money to some of us, but in the grand scheme of things, it's the loose change in the cushions of the federal couch.

It would be nice if the country would one day wake up to a Congress high-minded enough to pass legislation on its merits regardless of whether there's a goody tucked away in it for their state. It would be wonderful if all those little goodies were fully vetted in public instead of tucked away.

But that's not the real world now, and it probably never will be. And earmarks - except for occasional truly odious Bridge to No Where - just aren't a real problem.

Even those ranting this week about Democratic pork in a spending bill had their own little oinkers tucked away.

Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign complains about bloated federal spending and says the budget should be frozen. Yet, tucked away in a bill the Senate is scheduled to debate today is a cool $1.425 million for Nevada "statewide bus facilities."

That's different, Ensign says.

"The reason I've been opposed" to earmarks in the past, he told McClatchy Newspapers "is that it's often a way of buying votes, and it often makes the spending packages too big. They're just not going to buy my vote with anything."

And now we have a new definition to deal with: Pork is OK as long as it doesn't buy your vote.

Let's just move past the political strawman and instead work on real issues that can help real American families.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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