Supporters of earmarks cite the success stories — airports, light transportation rails, and educational programs — but they ignore the boondoggles, such as the Bridge to Nowhere, an earmark that put more than $250 million federal tax dollars toward a bridge in Alaska that would have served a few dozen residents of a small town. And in 2008, Coburn highlighted how without earmarks Congress’ support for two educational programs plummeted, showing how the programs seemed to be more a vehicle for earmarks than worthwhile educational programs (at least, in the eyes of most legislators). Coburn also embarrassed Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) in 2007 when he proposed that $900,000 be used to help people with disabilities instead of for a Lyndon Baines Johnson museum.
Which brings up another point: earmarks were not parsed out based upon population, or taxes paid, or other processes of proper proportionality. They went to Members who were the best negotiators, were on the right committee, had the right influence, were reluctant to back legislation, and/or might need the help in getting re-elected.
So why should earmarks come back? The basic argument is that they grease the wheels of the political process, especially at a time when not much is getting done in Congress.
But why should politicians have to be bought in order to do the work of the country they allegedly serve? And “getting stuff done” is Beltway-speak for “passing more laws,” which is exactly the opposite of what this nation needs.
As noted in a Forbes op-ed in 2012, “Let’s face it—at a point, almost any elected official’s objection to a bill or judicial appointment will crumble when offered enough goodies to ensure endless re-election to office because the elected official is bringing home the bacon to the voters who hold his or her fate in their collective hands.” The op-ed also noted that “earmarking quickly devolved into a system of vote-buying where a Member of Congress, reluctant to cast a vote for a particular piece of legislation, could be ‘persuaded’ to do so if enough pork was piled onto that Member’s plate in the effort to satisfy an important constituency at home.”
So, no, the earmark ban isn’t perfect, but here it should stay, especially since earmarks are one of the best ways for incumbents to boast about alleged accomplishments when they run for re-election. This gives incumbents an enormous advantage over their opponents, many of whom run campaigns that start at a disadvantage.
– Dustin Siggins is the D.C. Correspondent for LifeSiteNews, a former blogger with Tea Party Patriots, and co-author of the forthcoming book Bankrupt Legacy: The Future of the Debt-Paying Generation.