Friday, December 21, 2007

Eliminate earmarks for effective governance

By Libby

Bush keeps chiding the Congress for failing to curb earmarks, ignoring the fact that the Democrats have in fact curbed them to some extent in comparison to the former GOP controlled body and they also added some much needed transparency to the process by at least forcing the authors to claim responsibility for them. Nonetheless, earmark reform still has a long way to go.

The latest spending bill contains more than 11,000 and although some are for legitimate and needed projects, there are still far too many that amount to vanity grants that benefit those who are politically connected to the authors, including their own family members. Ted "Bridge to Nowhere" Stevens, for instance successfully pushed through a new project, a ferry to nowhere that will raise real estate values on an island where his son-in-law owns land.

The Dems certainly deserve some credit for what few reforms they managed to pass but earmarks remain one of the greatest stumbling blocks to reforming our governmental processes in general. The reason it takes so long to get anything done is because of the furious dealing that goes on behind the scenes, trading the earmarks for votes. Futhermore, earmarks do nothing but perpetrate the 'old boy' system of governance, rewarding entrenched incumbents who get to use our tax dollars to effectively buy votes to protect their seats, while making it all the more difficult for newcomers to rework the process in order to make it more responsive to the people.

Moreover, the whole concept of earmarks seems to me to be inherently unfair. All states contribute to the tax base but only the powerful politicians get to the direct where the money is spent so I expect many states with lower profile representatives are shortchanged. I don't see why we shouldn't eliminate earmarks altogether and establish some kind of system where federal funds are distributed directly back to the states proportionate to their contributions in lump sums, rather than piecemeal at the whim of a handful of politicians who spend most of their time in DC.

It we eliminate this Congressional manipulation on a personal level, our Congresslizards would have all that time they currently spend on horsetrading to actually conduct the business of the people and they could try getting re-elected on their performance instead of their ability to bring home the pork. Granted, it would take the fun out of civil service, but it would surely serve the common good much more effectively.

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