Wednesday, April 18, 2012
I realize my blog is mostly for Political Junkies, thats what you get from a Washingtonian. I mostly blog about American Politics and Current Affairs and American History. And some of the subjects I touvh sound bland, hopefully my writing doesn't sound bland. I try to blog in an informative and interesting way. So my blogs aren't used to cure insomnia and so the readers actually get something useful out of it. Perhaps learning something they haven't already known. And blogging about Congressional Earmarks, perhaps something that only 1/4 Americans have ever heard of. Is the ultimate of wonky Egg Headed Political Junky blogs. There a lot Americans who can't even name their own Representative or Senator. Perhaps not even Governor, let alone what a Congressional Earmark is. But could tell what certain celebrity wore to the last Awards Show. So I'm covering some ground here that might be for a very limited audience. Thats not reason not to blog about Congressional Earmarks, because the subject is still important and I'll explain why.
What is a Congressional Earmark, its an amendment to a bill that a Representative or Senator. Gets approved to attached to a bill, generally Appropriations bills. The bills that fund the Federal Government and Earmarks almost alway involves money and its the Transportation bill and other Infrastructure Investment bills. An Earmark is an amendment that authorizes targeted spending in a certain area. To use as an example, lets say there's a Highway bill, Rep. Smith or Sen. Jones. Gets an Earmark attached to the bill to fund a new highway or bridge. In their District or State, its not Congressional Earmarks are bad exactly. Its really the process thats corrupted Congress to the point. That Representatives and Senators have lost their jobs and are now even in prison for their involvement.
What's made Congressional Earmarks the problem, is that they are used to my Members of Congress. To get reelected, they are tickets to get reelected. And with a Congress thats full of Career Politicians and even Career Members of Congress. It makes the process even more corrupt because now Members can go to their constituents and Special Interests. And tell them I hear you need funding for your school or institution. How about we work together on this, I'm a Member of the Appropriations Committee. Or even the Chairman or Ranking Member of that Committee. The constituent sees what Rep. Smith or Sen. Jones did for them. And decided to make a Political Contribution to them or even vote for them. And because they are tickets to reelection, it makes reforming them almost impossible.
I'm not a fan of Congressional Earmarks, wish Congress didn't have them and that they would at least reform the process. But there's a difference between good Earmarks and bad Earmarks. And with a better process, we would be able to keep Congressional Earmarks. And keep in the good Earmarks and eliminate the bad Earmarks. A good Earmark, lets say Rep. Smith who represents Boston, Atlanta, Chicago or San Francisco. Or some other big city with a large Metro Area. Has high congestion in their area and too much traffic and traffic jams. Needs funding to expand a road or build a new road, to cut down on the Traffic Congestion. So their constituents would have other options to get around. Or secures funding to expand or build a new Metro Center, that hundreds of thousands of people would use.
A bad Earmark would be an Earmark that Rep. Smith or Sen. Jones secures. To build a bridge or road in their District or State, that only their family and close friends use. Perhaps to get to their Vacation Home or new Vacation Home. And if your familiar with the "Bridge to Nowhere", you know thats not far fetched. So knowing the fact that we as Tax Payers are probably stuck with Congressional Earmarks indefinitely. We need to clean up the process with a few reforms. One all Congressional Earmarks are transparent, meaning the Rep. Sen. who authored the Earmark. Would be made public before the Earmark is voted on. As well as what the Earmark is for and how it paid for. Two that all Earmarks are paid for, that none of them are funded by borrowing. And three that all Congressional Earmarks are relevant to the bill that they are attached to. Defense Earmarks to Defense bills to use as an example.
We are probably never ever going to be able to eliminate Congressional Earmarks. Especially as long as we have so many Career Politicians in Congress. But we can certainly open up the process to make it transparent. So we know what they are for, authored by who, how they are paid for. And then hold our Representatives Senators accountable for them.