Advertisement
Politics

In Defense of Earmarks

Enough already with the earmarks.

Enough already with the earmarks. It's a silly waste of time to make such a big deal of them when there are so many more important economic issues demanding attention. Sure, they can be a problem -- especially when they lead to ridiculous inequities, such as Alaska getting way more than a fair share just because its representatives have seniority. And there's the potential for abuse, with members using them to curry favor for supporters.

Advertisement - Article continues below

But the truth is there are plenty of good and smart earmarks...so let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Consider that there's already been a lot of reform of the process. Until a few years ago, earmarks were secret and therefore moved completely under the radar. No more. Today, every earmark request is made public before Congress votes. That includes the name of the member requesting it and the name of the company or entity that would benefit from it. It's all in a government database on the Internet.

Transparency doesn't ensure fairness, but it does help eliminate outright graft and the really silly stuff. And remember somebody has to decide what project will get funded when money is appropriated for research or whatever. Do you really think an unnamed bureaucrat sitting in a darkened office always makes a smarter decision than the congressman who knows what his district needs? As Jonathan Rauch points out in an excellent column today on the good and bad sides of earmarks, too many government programs are governed by rigid, outmoded rules that perpetuate old mistakes. Too often what got funded last year will get more funding next if agencies were left to do as they wish.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

And don't kid yourself that ending earmarks will end the influence of powerful committee chairmen. Even when there's no earmark, there's nothing to stop a chairman from picking up the phone and calling an agency to put in a word for a favored project. And what agency will ignore the request of the chairman who determines its budget?

So let's accept that while the system has its warts and try to limit the damage, let's not go overboard worrying about it. The alternatives are no panacea.  And after all, earmarks account for less than half of 1% of total government spending.

Advertisement

Most Popular

What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2020 vs. 2019?
tax brackets

What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2020 vs. 2019?

The IRS unveiled the 2020 tax brackets, and it's never too early to start planning to minimize your future tax bill.
June 20, 2020
HSAs Get Even Better
Financial Planning

HSAs Get Even Better

Workers have more options with flexible spending accounts, too.
July 2, 2020
17 States That Will Gain or Lose Electoral-College Votes After the 2020 Census
Politics

17 States That Will Gain or Lose Electoral-College Votes After the 2020 Census

Every 10 years, the 435 seats in the House of Representatives are reassigned based on the results of the U.S.
July 2, 2020

Recommended

Travel Planning in the Time of Coronavirus
Travel

Travel Planning in the Time of Coronavirus

Insurance may not cover canceled vacations, but airlines and hotels may be flexible.
June 11, 2020
13 Things That May Soon Disappear Forever (The Pandemic Edition)
business

13 Things That May Soon Disappear Forever (The Pandemic Edition)

Emerging technologies (and now the COVID-19 pandemic) are putting an end to these familiar items and practices.
June 9, 2020
Don't Let the Drama Surrounding PPP Distract You from Running Your Business
business

Don't Let the Drama Surrounding PPP Distract You from Running Your Business

If you're so wrapped up in worry about your Paycheck Protection Program loan not being forgiven, think about the worst-case scenario. It might not be …
June 5, 2020
Another Epidemic to Worry About: Identity Theft
business

Another Epidemic to Worry About: Identity Theft

Fraud losses grew in 2019 and are likely to increase in 2020.
June 5, 2020