Thursday, 18 November 2010

Earmarks and Corruption

Blowtorches Long Passed Due

Republicans in the US Congress are finally looking as it they will take action against "earmarks"--one of the most corrupt practices in the US polity.

The practice has long been defended by "mainstream" Republicans--you know, the ones who allegedly appeal to independent voters. The arguments they have advanced have consisted of breathtaking misdirections ("if we ban earmarks we will give the President more control over spending"). Now they are feeling the electoral heat and they are changing tune. Way passed time--and their turning is not to be trusted. Keep the blowtorch to the y-fronts, we say.

Here is Patterico on earmarks.
Before he was dragged kicking and screaming into supporting an earmark ban, Mitch McConnell (Republican Senator) and a lot of the Smart People were arguing that a ban on earmarks does not reduce spending by a single penny.

Why wouldn’t it?

Can one of the Smart People explain this logic to me?

The argument I have seen is that eliminating earmarks simply turns over spending power to the executive. But I don’t understand why this must be the case.

Let’s take a standard example of an earmark from the post below. Barack Obama, Fearless Champion of Responsible Spending and Opponent of Earmarks, is the junior Senator from Illinois. In that capacity, he requests $1 million in an earmark intended for a local hospital at which, coincidentally, his wife works — at a $316,962 per year job in the position of executive administrator, which is hospital terminology for “Wife Of Guy Who Might Give Us Money.”

The earmark is rejected by lawmakers. Why does this mean that the President now gets to decide how to spend that $1 million? Why can’t lawmakers decide to simply remove that spending from the appropriations bill?

You know: cutting spending! What a concept!

The idea that this approach is rejected out of hand — that any dollar not directed by Congress becomes a dollar directed by the President — seems to miss the entire point. Why can’t a dollar (or a million, or millions or billions) not directed by Congress be returned to the taxpayer? Or, even more shockingly, used to reduce our crushing debt?

As for the size of earmarks, it’s true that they are a small part of the budget. But it’s symptomatic of the mindset.

If you are missing your mortgage payment every month, it’s probably not because you’re subscribing to People Magazine. But if you’re missing your mortgage payment every month, you should not be subscribing to People Magazine. If you are, it’s a good indication that you just don’t seem to understand the problem.

We have to change the mindset, Mitch. So embrace this change with the right attitude. It’s time to return some dollars to the taxpayer.

If we take the lawmakers’ small entitlements, maybe they’ll get in the right frame of mind to take on our big entitlements.

All we can do is try.

Fortunately, we do not have "earmarking" in New Zealand. Our corruptions take other forms, but corruptions they remain. Our electorate must remain both scrupulous and ruthless when it comes to dealing with public corruption. Thus, we are pleased to see Pansy Wong resign. But there is more, much more. And we need more blow torches. There are y-fronts aplenty.

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