REIN IN THE MONEY GRUBBERS Normally, we would be in the Hallelujah chorus, singing the praises of an Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman's recent refusal to include millions of dollars in earmarks to the spending bill that funds the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, among others. But, we're not going to support a partisan attempt to make lawmakers toe the pork line.
Government Giveaways Increase While Deficits Soar
Here is a news update from Taxpayers for Common Sense. TCS is the best organization that monitors excessive government spending, corruption and corporate welfare.
Don't get us wrong. We don't like earmarks. They are one of the root causes of the largest deficits in American history and the fact that the average taxpayer thinks the government cares more about special interests than their quality of life. The fact is pork barrel provisions have skyrocketed from 958 specific projects or programs totaling $12.5 billion in 1996 to 8,341 totaling $22.5 billion in 2002.
Sadly, this past week's rare act of spending restraint by an elected official was motivated by a desire to intimidate fellow members of Congress into voting in lockstep on future appropriation bills. The reason why bigwig appropriator, Rep. Ralph Regula, stiffened his spine was to punish those members who dared to vote against his bill by denying them any of their requested earmarks, presumably freeing up funds for other, more agreeable, lawmakers. Rather than a display of fiscal discipline, this power play is a pavlovian attempt to get members of Congress to blindly agree with future bills in exchange for pork. The end result of such a move will be less oversight, less scrutiny and more waste. In other words, take an already broken appropriations process and make it even worse.
Earmarks, from both sides of the aisle, are out of control. As Norman Ornstein commented in a recent column in Roll Call, we are reaching a point "where important large programs get diminished funding so that picayune projects can prevail." There is plenty of blame to go around. The President has decried earmarks in each budget he produces and his former Budget Director argued with lawmakers over them. Yet, the President's veto pens have become dust collectors while larded up spending bills have glided past the his desk over the past 3 years. Denying earmarks as a weapon to enforce discipline is just the latest, sad new twist to this tale.
Right now with the Republican Party controlling all access to the congressional piggy bank [the White House and both houses of Congress], we thought spending bills would be churned out like a well-oiled machine. Yet, at the dawn of the new fiscal year on October 1st, only a paltry three of the thirteen annual appropriations bills had passed. We'll be lucky if seven are done by Thanksgiving, leaving the rest to be rolled up into an omnibus spending bill the size of several phone books. At best, members of Congress will give it shallow, cursory review before sending it to the President's desk and flying home.
The House Appropriations Committee was carved out of the Ways and Means Committee in 1865. The Senate followed suit with their own Appropriations Committee in 1867. Recent events indicate that this 135 year-old system is broken and it is time to revaluate how Congress spends our money.
For more information, contact Keith Ashdown at (202)-546-8500 ext. 110
or by email at email@example.com
TCS is at www.taxpayer.net
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