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Saturday, March 12, 2022

Earmarks aren't the problem

This may cost me a few readers but facts are facts. I try not to lead readers astray.

So bear with me on this one.

The Hill reported, "After an 11-year drought, congressional earmarks are back with vengeance.

"The $1.5 trillion, 2,741-page omnibus spending package is loaded with funding for lawmaker pet projects, some of which could help incumbents in this fall’s elections.

"The legislation includes more than 4,000 earmarks, according to a list of projects provided to The Hill by a Senate Republican aide that spanned 367 pages."

The total price of those earmarks was not included in this story. Schumer got 59 earmarks totaling $80 million. Sounds like a lot but if that were the going rate for earmarks, the total price would be $5.5 billion or so.

In the same bill, Congress gave Ukraine $13.6 billion.

Pork barrel politicking is not the problem. In the 11 years since Congress banned earmarks, the national debt doubled to nearly $30 trillion, It rose from 95% of our GDP to 124%. 

Earmarks aren't the problem. Wars and welfare are.

Let me go over that again.

In the past 11 years, we spent ZERO on earmarks and doubled the deficit. A debt that took us 222 years to accumulate we doubled in just 11 years without congressmen bringing home the bacon.

Critics are blaming a unicorn for the horse manure. Earmarks are to the national debt what climate change is to the weather.

But many fine people fall into this trap of blaming earmarks. Jonathan Turley, for example, wrote, "While Congress disavowed earmarks, the pork-ridden bill shows that both parties have abandoned the pledge.  Spending trillions in the last couple years appears to have removed any sense of fiscal responsibility or accountability. We are now over $30 trillion in debt so what are a few pork items — or in Schumer’s case 142 such items. (Some argue that debt is really only $22 trillion and that debt does not matter).

"It was a clever move at a perfect time. With Ukraine raging and people traumatized over the war, leadership like Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Cal.) kept bringing questions back to $14 billion in aid for Ukraine. Members stressed that there was no time to waste — or in this case to read — before voting.

"It is a familiar tactic on pork spending. You can hide an entire drove of pigs behind a single redeeming budget item."

So?

Ukraine and earmarks combined are about 1% of the federal budget next year. 

The other 99% of the budget are the problem. Medicaid is about 30% of that $1.5 trillion. (The feds will pay two-thirds of the $660 billion Medicaid will spend.)

Not only does Medicaid bust the federal budget, but state budgets as well as legislatures struggle to meet co-payments.

The medical industry is the best lobbying group in America. Poor people will die if we don't throw in a 10% hike this year in Medicaid spending. The money goes to the medical bureaucracy which has mushroomed under Medicaid.

The military budget is about half that $1.5 trillion. The money now includes a lot of wokeness as Silly Milley ponders white rage. Teacher says every time you fire a million-dollar missile, a retired general gets a commission.

[Update: The $1.5 trillion is in addition to more than $2 trillion in what is deemed nondiscretionary spending. Spending on defense, Medicaid, Medicare and the like are on automatic pilot. That's what drives this crazy overspending.]

I go against the grain on earmarks. If we are going to give Ukraine $13.6 billion because Zelensky and Putin are in a pissing match, then why not give (scans The Hill story again) "Dunkirk Harbor on Lake Erie, $5 million more than the $680,000 requested by the administration."

That $1.5 trillion budget next year is on top of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. That's $4.6 trillion in spending -- which is nearly a million times the size of that pork barrel in Dunkirk Harbor.

The media does not do the math.

The Hill made a big deal about Manchin voting down a $3.5 trillion spending orgy because he got $41 million for West Virginia projects. 

$41 million is one-tenth of 1% of 1% of that $3.5 trillion in spending that he stopped. The Hill compared a spitball to a hurricane.

The Hill should be ashamed.

But bashing earmarks is budgetary virtue signaling. I said it. Someone has to. I try not to lead readers astray.

26 comments:

  1. The real problem is the permanent political elite in DC. These nitwits spend their entire lives slurping at the public trough, losing whatever perspective they had before their entry into politics. This is a bipartisan flaw/affliction.

    Serious and brief term limits would help cure the problem. Dramatic cuts to permanent bureaucracies would be another smart move.

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  2. Bravo great post Don! not losing me. Medicaid is over whelmed by illegals, druggies. and bums. There is a movement from the bowels of or glorious legislature.For "Single payer health care." "simple easy, free." is seen on signs in our local blue carbuncle neighborhood.
    No,no,and he** no.
    FKB,FJB.

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  3. I agree with this column. I will add the upside of earmarks is better control over the unelected bureaucracy within the Executive Branch. Congress used to be able to direct spending within agencies - earmarks were not just used for pork projects. They have lost that degree of control. Relinquishing earmarks decreased Congressional Power versus the unelected bureaucracy in the Executive Branch.

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  4. One of the elephants in the room is introducing a 2,000 page bill with two days to "read" it. I may approach my Congressman to suggest introducing a bill requiring a pages-per-day requirement on every bill introduced. For example, a full day of review required for every, say, 200 pages of these piles of crap. With the surplus of lawyers lying around in that cesspool, they should have no problem analyzing 200 pages per day, or something like that. Do you think this proposal would pass? Not in a million years.

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    Replies
    1. Won't work. Better to require that the entire bullget be read in Congress and members must be present in the room for 2)3 of the minutes spent reading it in order to vote on it or introduce changes including earmarks.
      Probably won't work either.

      Delete
  5. Why don't we give these countries a line of credit. And they can use it to buy American goods only.
    And at least pork goes to America.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Just need to clarify, Big D…there IS a difference between MediCARE and MediCAID. The former is what’s keeping my mom in law alive. The latter is a complete boondoggle. Help a brother out…

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    Replies
    1. Agreed Z. Medicaid is socialized medicine. But a problem as big as entitlements is bloated headcount. As an IT contractor I've been dealing with federal Agencies since 1992. The DoD could cut its civilian staff by 50% with no drop in readiness. Don't even get me started on HHS, Commerce, HUD and Interior. Scores of sub-Agencies could be eliminated with no effect on the lives of citizens. We need DJT to get the HAZMAT suit on and clean out the Federal stable.

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  7. Lets not forget; as well; Congress has not passed a budget since before Obama. 2009 was the last time, Congress oversaw its budget responsibilities. These spending bills don't write themselves.

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  8. Great and helpful post, Don! Not losing me here. Medicaid? Knew it was bad, but but still and eye-opener. TennCare almost bankrupted Tennessee before it was pared down. Still lawsuits will go on for decades. Where does it all end? Cut out seed oils and sugar and you're half-way there.

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  9. I do not know the ins and outs of earmarks in your system. We've got our own at-the-trough system in Canada. Don, what you say makes more than sense. Common sense. Something we don't have when people who don't make anything and only sign the back of a cheque think that spending is the answer to everything.

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  10. As someone said above, all of these things (earmarks included) are a problem since they reflect a nearly-permanent political class in DC that doles out favors to keep themselves in office.

    The specific problem with earmarks is that they are used as a slush fund by powerful Senators to steer funds (with no accountability) to crony-projects in their home states - and when a lot of people are only employed because of this, it makes it nearly impossible to get rid of the entrenched Senator (his/her position transcends ideology - when so many people's jobs depend on the slush fund).

    Funny thing is that when earmarks disappeared, the slush fund stealth switched over to the rancid-and-corrupt EB-5 program. Now that EB-5 is gone, they bring earmarks back; I don't think that last is coincidental...

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  11. And what about the really old hangover from days when we actually had a Federal Budget: If you don't spend all of this years money by the end of the fiscal year, you won't get any increases whether you need them or not.
    One FY while in the Navy, all 40+ of my engineers got almost a complete set of personal tools as there was no other way to spend all my department funds. Had run out of places to store rags.
    Several years ago a client of mine told me how he had to move x-ray and CT machines among hospitals whether they needed them or not to have a budget for replacements where they were really needed.
    Wonder what the last federal agency to actually have a budget reduced might have been?

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  12. Over 50 years ago I got a government job managing a multimillion dollar budget. I told my wife she needed to manage our household finances because I had no concept of money after that.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Sounds like we need a lot of Trumplicans in Congress.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Be nice to take the credit card away from the children. But it won't happen.
    Soooo, we get a law. Limits them to two terms. Their next election is for the people to vote whether they get to walk away from congress free or if the people think they should spend the same amount of time they had in office in prison.
    That's right. Spend 8 years in office and if you ticked off enough of your voters you get to spend 8 years in prison. No time off for good behavior either.
    I know, it's a pipe dream, but it's my pipe dream.

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  15. “ Earmarks aren't the problem. Wars and welfare are.” BINGO!

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  16. Outlays in 2020 were thus, social security $1.1 trillion. Medicare $769 billion. Medicaid $456 billion. Defense $714 billion nondefense discretionary $914 billion. Other $988 billion. Recovery rebates $275 billion. Unemployment $473 billion.
    Total revenue $3.4 trillion.
    Total outlays $6.6 trillion.
    These are the numbers from the CBO. Defense is 10.81% of the federal budget.

    ReplyDelete
  17. "Congress gave Ukraine $13.6 billion"

    The possibilities of that money making it past the Biden Crime Family to Ukraine ain't going to happen.

    ReplyDelete
  18. The problem with earmarks is not the money. It's that earmarks are a form of bribery. Earmarks, pork barrelling, is what keeps getting these crooks reelected.

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