Earmarks-Porkulus Beasts or Useful Prescriptions
Recently the debate over earmarks has begun to really heat up. No one seems to have shed much light on the issue or made the case “for or against” very well. Earmarks have gained notoriety because of their association with big pork barrel spending and outright bribery (think of Louisiana Purchase or Cornhusker Kickback) to get large spending and regulatory bills passed (think, more taxes and less freedom). Taking the easy button is, to say, “no more earmarks”. Alas, it is not so easy.
Earmarks have a very useful place in the Congress. The problem is the abuses that have been piled on by many to “bring home the bacon” to their districts and states, and their use in legislative bribery. Earmarks dedicated to exploring public policy issues or establishing outside commissions serve a very valuable function. For instance a bill to set up an outside commission to investigate: how the justice department is handling the release of Guantanamo detainees/the Black Panther case, EPA administratively imposed mandates, the war in Afghanistan or any other general public concern may have a hard time surviving a straight up or down vote in the face of a hostile majority or Presidential veto. Who would expect the administration, members of Congress or the judiciary to approve an outside investigation of themselves or their actions? And Lord knows we have a lot that needs investigating. However, if it is attached to a more looming and important bill it can survive. Such was the case for the outside commission investigating the Iraq war that led to the “Surge” recommendation, which resulted in a US and Iraqi win and shortening the war significantly.
Most recently the conversation between Congressman Frank Wolf and Neil Cavuto on Fox got very heated concerning earmarks. The case for or against was not made very well, due in part to interruptions by Mr. Cavuto, who already knew the answer he was looking for. As you can see from the above, the responsible answer to, “are you for or against earmarks?” is not always as simple as a “yes or no”.
Congressmen of either party, whether you agree with them or not, are due the respect of that office. It is the ability to have civil discourse that keeps the wheels of liberty oiled and rolling.
What the Congress needs to do is ban the use of earmarks for obvious pork projects and their use in bribery, and clearly define the allowed uses! The key is to get Congress to understand that, even in the Congress, bribery should not be legal. Congressmen should be held accountable to the same laws and standards as “we the people”!