The Corner

Earmarks and the Tea Party

Whether out of ignorance or denial, the Left still does not understand the primary driving force behind Democrats’ midterm shellacking: the Tea Party. (As it turns out, some “establishment” Republicans don’t have a clue either.) Take this passage from a recent New York Times editorial titled “The Empty Earmark Pledge” (emphasis added):

Blaming earmarks for the country’s fiscal ills has been a favorite Tea Party talking point and a way to avoid a more serious discussion of the real mix of difficult spending cuts and tax increases that are the only way to dig the country out of this hole.

Standard NYT fare, of course, and completely out of touch with reality. Maybe if they had spent less time covering the likes of Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell, and focused on people like Sen.-elect Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), the quintessential Tea Party candidate who sent beloved liberal Sen. Russ Feingold packing, they would realize that the incoming class of Tea Party candidates (those who actually won) is in fact serious about tackling the federal debt and spending crisis, and realizes that earmarks are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Johnson gets it. He told NRO in an interview during the election that he favored banning earmarks “not because it’s such a huge amount of spending, it’s less than half a percent of our budget, but it’s just so corrupting on the process.” He was also a co-sponsor to the two-year earmark moratorium recently approved by Senate Republicans, and issued the following statement:

This is an important signal to the American public that we are serious about restoring fiscal sanity to this nation.  I was given the opportunity to co-sponsor this resolution, and I was happy to support it.  But, we all need to realize that this is only a very small first step.

Another freshman member from Wisconsin, Rep.-elect Sean Duffy (R), summarizes in an op-ed for Politico.

Critics and supporters of earmarks mock our effort to ban them. They say earmarks are “small ball,” making up only a fraction of the budget. They complain that eliminating earmarks is meaningless.

They’re wrong.

For starters, it’s staggering that anyone thinks billions of dollars is trivial. Beyond the cost, no elected official should be able to sneak earmarks into a larger bill to unilaterally direct taxpayer dollars to pet projects without any accountability or transparency.

Earmarks themselves are used to grease the wheels for more spending, more borrowing and more government. While individual earmarks may be small relative to the total budget, they have a dramatic impact when used to buy votes for much larger – and much more expensive – pieces of legislation.

Earlier today, House Republicans unanimously approved an earmark moratorium for the 112th Congress that Duffy, who was elected to the seat of retiring Appropriations chairman Dave Obey (D., Wis.), introduced.

Andrew Stiles — Andrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...

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