Friday, March 12, 2010

The 'No Earmark Pledge' is silly

The Democrats and Republicans are making an empty election year promise to not engage in the hated practice of congressional earmarks. Everyone hates it when someone else's congressman asks for a little of their district's money back in taxes. The dirty little secret is that it won't matter.

Now forget the argument that earmarks collectively don't make up much of the federal deficit. Let's just say that you agree in principle that any cutting in government is good and this pledge cuts at the heart of pork barrell projects. Even this so-called moral high-ground of principle won't cut even a single dollar in spending. But how can this be?

Earmarks don't add to spending, instead they say where spending will be prioritized. The congress will approve a budget that leaves in it room for discretionary spending. This is where the real problem is. Once it is in the approved budget, it's up to members of congress to start carving out where this money should be spent. So what will happen if no earmarks are submitted? One of two things will happen: The president will spend the money instead of congress or they will define in law what the proportion of spending will be by state and just allow for grants that can be applied for. How much money will be saved by either of these moves? Not a penny.

Don't be fooled by this. They're not interested in spending less and most of you don't want them to stop bringing home the bacon either. We should at least stop pretending that earmarks are the cause of all of our problems.

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