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March 17, 2008
Earmarks: How Your
Money Is Disappearing
Most Americans don’t like it when a third of their income gets taken
away by Washington only to be spent according to the wishes of a flawed
few. But as is inherent in human nature, these taxpayers try hard to
come up with a justification for sending other Americans an arbitrary
amount of their own hard-earned money. And unsurprisingly, the one
rationale they can pass for a quasi-consolation is that hey, at least
the money is going to something good.
recent years, you have paid $325,000 for a swimming pool that you will
never swim in, $1.4 million for curriculum development at a Mississippi
school your children will never hear of and $13.5 million for an
organization that finances events no one you know will ever attend (such
as the World Toilet Summit).
You have labored every day in order to contribute $500,000 for the
Sparta Teapot Museum in North Carolina;
for the Kam Wah Chung & Company Museum in Oregon (what? yeah,
precisely); $550,000 for the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington;
for a parking facility at an art museum in Omaha; and $50,000 for a Mule
Museum in California.
Instead of keeping some more of your cash to send your kids to private
school or to pay off your own student loans, you are contributing $8
million to replace control towers at two Massachusetts airports that
serve the homes of Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, $2 million to
improve a runway used by a few corporate jets and nearly $100,000 to
help upgrade a luxury hotel in Florida.
You probably get the point by now. In all, you are spending many
billions of dollars every year on what are known as “earmarks.” Earmarks
are provisions forcing the federal government to fund “pork” projects,
which are specific pet projects demanded by members of Congress, but
funded by taxpayers. A congressman can insert funding for a doorknob
museum in his home district and make you pay for it. There is no debate
over this earmark, and no questions asked.
Despite their widespread use, earmarks aren’t bankrupting the country by
themselves. But they are also sometimes used to buy votes on spending
bills that do. For instance, a congressman refusing to vote for a
bloated spending bill will be “encouraged” to do so if the bill also
includes funding for promiscuous penguin research at a university that
is located in his home district. This congressman will then vote for the
bloated bill, and thus for the hundreds of earmarks in it. Come election
time, he will brag to his grateful constituents about the federal funds
he managed to bring home.
Many of these pet projects are absolutely useless, and are a reflection
of corrupt politics. Take the $320 million Alaskan bridge that was
designed to connect an island of 50 people to the mainland, despite the
existence of a ferry that ran every 15 to 30 minutes.
consider the $2 million “Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service” in
New York requested by Congressman, umm, Charles Rangel.
Take a minute to think about the $1 million that Sen. Barack Obama
requested for the University of Chicago Hospital, where Michelle Obama
is a vice president whose salary nearly tripled soon after the election
of her husband to the Senate.
be sure, rampant earmarking is a bipartisan disease infecting the
leadership of both Democrats and Republicans. In fact, a proposal put
forth by Sen. John McCain and others to ban earmarks for one year failed
last week on an unfortunate vote of 29-71 in the Senate. But
earmarking’s few heroic opponents are fiscal conservatives such as
Congressmen Jeff Flake and John Shadegg, and even more notably, Senators
Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn.
the other hand, some of the biggest porkers have been fiscal liberals,
whether Democrats or Republicans. Sen. Hillary Clinton received $342
million in earmarks last year. Obama requested $330 million. Now, they
are both suddenly against pork. Ah, the politics of “change.”
One can only hope that they will change even more and pledge that as
president, they would not sign any bill that has earmarks in it, as
McCain has. No candidate deserves a vote for president without pledging,
at the very least, that American taxpayers will not have to sacrifice
their mortgage payments in order to fund mule museums, bridges to
nowhere or a new wing at Michelle Obama’s hospital.
© 2008 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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