Sunday, February 25, 2024

Earmarks Damage America for Reasons You Might Never Have Realized

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) this week released a report that tracks the history of earmarks from the time of the Founding Fathers until the present day.

The report, titled “All About Earmarks: A Brief History,” documents at least eight specific reasons why Congress must eliminate the practice. 

Staff at the Washington, D.C-based CAGW, in their report, said the Founding Fathers deemed that Congress could only spend money pursuant to powers enumerated in the Constitution. The 10th Amendment leaves all other responsibilities to the states. 

In other words, serving local needs is not a core responsibility of the federal government. 

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“Even as federal power vastly expanded during the 20th century, Congress did not engage in pork-barrel spending (a phrase coined in the late 19th century to compare the rush toward a pile of tax dollars to the way the enslaved would crowd around barrels of salted pork at mealtimes) extensively until the 1980s. Instead, Congress would fund general grant programs and let federal and state agencies select individual recipients through a competitive process or formula,” the CAGW report said.

“The House and Senate Appropriations Committees named specific projects only when they had been vetted and approved by authorizing committees. Members of Congress with local concerns would lobby the president and federal agencies for consideration. The process was aimed at preventing abuse and allocating resources on the basis of merit and need.”

But, as the CAGW report went on to say, “the system devolved into a free-for-all of earmarking in the 1990s and first decade of the 21st century.” 

Earmarks, the report went on to say, create the following complications:

• Multiple scandals have plagued members of Congress when earmarks are involved, especially when elected officials direct earmarks to locations remarkably close to real estate they or their family members own.

• Earmarks benefit the most powerful legislators. 

• The budget process is willfully rigged so lawmakers and lobbyists can conceal their actions from taxpayers. In the absence of accountability, earmarks-for-donations and earmarks-for-votes trading become more appealing and less risky.

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• Earmarks corrupt academia and impede scientific research. 

• Earmarks lead lawmakers to neglect more important duties. 

• Earmarks contribute to the meltdown of spending restraint in Washington. 

• Earmarks allow members of Congress to indulge in narcissism. 

• Earmarks help to fortify an entrenched political class. 

In July, CAGW reported that members of Congress spent nearly $19 billion in taxpayer dollars on earmarks in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. That was a 19 percent increase over what they spent in FY 2021.

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