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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Banning earmarks failed

Two things happened in March 2010. The House Appropriations Committee banned earmarks to for-profit corporations, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed without a single Republican vote.

The move to ban earmarks was on, ostensibly to balance the budget.

$8 trillion of added debt later we find that supporters of earmarks were right.

I was for the reform.

I was wrong.

Earmarks did not cause the budget deficits.

Banning them made Congress worse. Suddenly, leadership had no horses to trade. Without horses to trade, the job of House speaker became nearly impossible. Boehner said to hell with it, and Ryan may be looking to exit.

On top of that, with no bridges to nowhere to bridge their ideological gap, the acrimony between the two parties grew to the point where the vice president had to cast the tie-breaking vote to confirm Betty DeVos as education secretary.

Earmarks are bridges, highways, and infrastructure. Who better to decide: an elected official or a Civil Service official?

As far as cleaning up the swamp goes -- don't whiz on my leg and tell me it's raining. The swamp is worse today than in the Era of Earmarks.

Complaints about the loss of the earmarks have grown.

Steven C. LaTourette, a former Republican congressman from Ohio, wrote in The Hill editorialized on July 30, 2014: "The Congressional Earmark Ban: the Real Bridge to Nowhere."

From LaTourette:
Whether the Pollyanna opponents of the earmark process want to admit it or not, the truth is that earmarks were an incredibly important tool in the legislative bargaining process. The legislative process is a lot more like sausage making than it is like Moses coming down from the mountain, and having the ability to use earmarks to fund important projects in a member’s district was a valuable tool in actually getting to 218 votes in the House. By banning earmarks, we have made actually passing legislation through both chambers, already a herculean task in a Washington mired in partisan gridlock, a virtual impossibility.
The earmark ban was a classic Washington overreaction. While proponents of the earmark ban may have had good intentions, the truth is that not only has it not served its intended purposes, it has also had negative unintended consequences. Like the original Bridge to Nowhere, it is time to pull the plug on the policy Bridge to Nowhere and end the earmark ban.
President Trump has called to bring earmarks back. He wants an infrastructure bill passed. Why shouldn't congressmen and senators decide how the money is spent in their district or state?

Politics is all about whose road gets paved. I trust Nancy Pelosi's judgment on what projects need done in San Francisco over the judgment of the Deputy Undersecretary for Potholes at the USDOT.

Let's go back to what worked, albeit in a rather ugly way.


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  1. “Let's go back to what worked, albeit in a rather ugly way.”

    Yup. Only the impotent are pure.

  2. So, earmarks are the grease that keeps the wheels of democracy turning? Arguably, but turning to your larger point, no project earmarked before the ban surely cost taxpayers more than Obama's personal earmarks for FoB (Friends of Barack), like the guaranteed loan to Solyndra, which promptly went bankrupt as soon as the check from the US Treasury was cashed.

  3. In the conversation between Hamilton, Madison and Jefferson where Madison and Jefferson decided that Hamilton needed to be destroyed, the two had been deploring the corruption built into the British constitution, and Hamilton said that without the corruption the system wouldn't work.

    This sounds much the same.

  4. And, of course, this is why people become millionaires after one term in congress.

  5. OK, it's ugly, it's uncouth, and it works. Sometimes ya gotta accept that ya gotta eat the spinach.

  6. Geez Louise, Don. You act like they are spending OUR money.

  7. Its almost like you'll support anything at all if Trump does.

    If he had made a statement condemning earmarks, you'd have published an article denouncing them as well.

    If it weren't for double-standards, you'd have none at all.

  8. Don, it was wise and big of you to say it: "I was wrong."

    Yet I'm still not convinced banning earmarks was so bad, because when you claim "the job of House speaker became nearly impossible", you mean the US gov't today has huge trouble passing lousy bills that increase gov't (altho with some select benefits). To smaller-gov't me, that's a good feature.

    The Reps winning Congress is a significant result of the earmark ban -- less Fed bacon for all, and more folk willing to support less pork for the others.

    Yes, with earmarks to trade, the current Reps could get some Dems to support some stuff the Dems wouldn't support -- or maybe get some Reps to support Rep stuff they should be supporting anyway (like Repeal), but refuse to do so ... because no bacon for them.

    I'd prefer to wait out a business cycle with just the few Rep "magic wand" waves -- tax cuts & regulation reductions, without Dems. See if that doesn't help elect more Reps to allow more tax cuts.

    Finally, consider a big Fed Infrastructure bill -- just spend almost all the money in the counties which voted for Trump, which is most of them outside the blue islands in the big cities. Reps can pass such spending bills w/o Dems AND w/o earmarks.

    They should do so. And continue to work on getting more Reps elected.

  9. Your argument is convincing, Don- but I had a really, really hard time getting past this: "I trust Nancy Pelosi's judgment...."

    Please try to find a comparison that doesn't involve totally insane communist moonbats, and I'll be easier to convince!

  10. Earmarks are just a symptom of the corrupt nature of those in Congress and, in turn, you and me.

    The fact that you can’t bribe a Congress via Earmarks, which is a bribe to his area of representation for votes, does not mean, inherently that Congress cannot work together for the common good while working for their own self interest.

    Our Constitution was framed on the precept that man is inherently flawed and will subvert any legal process to gain more power over others. This was learned via liberal teachings of history; which is the polar opposite of history education today. It mirrors the religion expectations of the day.

    Mixed into this was the hope and desire that our leaders would be moral, virtuous, and selfless with a clear recognition that it would mostly not be so.

    We have morphed our government into something utterly reprehensible and was on the precipous of outright totalitarianism that was poking through under W and most definitely getting legs under Obama.