What the End of Earmarks SHOULD Mean

The 112th Congress succeeded in banning wasteful funding of politically-motivated pet projects for the past year. But it should come as no surprise that big-government supporters in the House and the Senate want to reinstate the practice of earmarking so they can begin funding such projects as the Bridge to Nowhere once again.

A New York Times article has a new spin in support of earmarks, claiming that since they’ve been banned, small towns have needed to increase their lobbying in Washington to secure more government funding. Now, one might read that and feel bad for the small towns that were surviving off the funds. Another might think those towns shouldn’t be using the federal government as a source of revenue.

Then there’s the third point of view: that the towns shouldn’t need a middleman in the first place. Small-town taxpayers pay their taxes – federal, state, and local – every year. Now they’re essentially lobbying to get back some of those federal tax dollars in order to pay for projects around town. Does anyone else see a problem and obvious solution?

These towns shouldn’t need to lobby the government for money for these projects, because that money shouldn’t be going to the federal government in the first place, even if they’re just going to be asking for it back. It’s a case for limited government if we ever heard one.

Something else about the article needs to be noted. In looking for an example of how earmarks supposedly help small towns, the New York Times plugged this gem:

“In Alabama, Chris Newlin, executive director of the National Children’s Advocacy Center in Huntsville, is also dealing with the loss of earmarked federal dollars…

“But since the Congressional earmarks ban, Mr. Newlin said the center had lost about $350,000 a year that it had gotten through Representative Robert E. Cramer, Democrat of Alabama, who left Congress in 2009. Mr. Cramer was a co-founder of the center in 1985 while he was a local district attorney. The center has an annual budget of $5 million.”

One of the major reasons – besides the bloated cost and greasing the skids for bad legislation – of banning earmarks was because they went to projects that appeared somewhat inappropriate. A member of Congress funneling taxpayer dollars to a center he founded does not breed trust.

The solution to this problem is simple: allow the states and local communities to keep more of their own money instead of lobbying the federal government to get their own money back.

It’s the same solution conservatives have asked for in the transportation bill. Instead of a federal gas tax, which takes money from the states and redistributes it using incomprehensible funding formulas, which often results in unnecessary projects and an uneven level of funding, the states should not have to give that money to a middle man in the first place. Sounds simple enough, right? The trick is to get our lawmakers to actually do it.

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