Liberally Conservative

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free....... ~Ronald Reagan~

Thursday, March 30, 2006

D.C. Porker's for March

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today named Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) Co-Porkers of the Month for their editorial “Earnest Earmarks,” which portrays earmarking as a proper exercise of Congress’s constitutional spending power and a check on the growth of government. xxxx Sen. Craig and Rep. Simpson argue that earmarks do not increase spending because Appropriations Committees must stay within the overall limits set by the budget resolution. But the budget resolution is non-binding and Congress routinely exceeds its spending caps. Furthermore, lawmakers often vote for expensive bills in exchange for pork projects in their home districts. As Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK.) says, earmarks “are a gateway drug on the road to the spending addiction.” xxx The editorial contends that eliminating earmarks would equate to an unconstitutional delegation of spending discretion to the executive branch. Instead of decisions being made by “local officials,” tens of thousands of “nameless, faceless bureaucrats” would use their budgets to “grow their bloated bureaucracies.” xxx The Founding Fathers were careful to point out that the Constitution limits Congress’s spending power to matters of national importance. In 1796, Thomas Jefferson warned that a proposition for internal improvements to roads would be “a bottomless abyss of public money…it will be a scene of eternal scramble among the members, who can get the most money wasted in their State; and they will always get most who are meanest.” In 1822, President James Monroe warned that financial support from Washington should be granted “to great national works only, since if it were unlimited it would be liable to abuse and might be productive of evil.”
Even as federal power vastly expanded during the twentieth century, Congress did not earmark extensively until the 1980s. Instead, Congress funded general grant programs and let federal and state agencies select individual recipients through a competitive process or formula. For academic grants, federal agencies select panels of “peer” experts to evaluate grant applications on the basis of scientific and other criteria. This insulation from political favoritism frustrates Sen. Craig, who recently said, “Can you see the University of Idaho and Boise State University getting grants in competition with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other big-name eastern universities if some bureaucrat in Washington was making the decision?”
Sen. Craig and Rep. Simpson sit on the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, helping Idaho rank 13th in pork per capita in CAGW’s 2005 Congressional Pig Book. The fiscal 2005 Energy and Water Appropriations Act included more than $33 million for pork projects in their state. The 2006 Congressional Pig Book will be released on April 5.
Recent scandals have led Congress to consider reform proposals that would curtail the power of appropriations committees to pad spending bills with pork. Sen. Craig and Rep. Simpson caution against “knee jerk” changes designed to “defuse controversy and shift attention.” Yet their own editorial is designed to downplay controversy and draw attention away from proposals with teeth. For their fanciful interpretation of the Constitution and their self-serving arguments in defense of pork, CAGW names Sen. Craig and Rep. Simpson the Co-Porkers of the Month for March 2006.

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