Earmark is simply the allocation of fund by those in the congress. In a 2012 Forbes article, the author cited how the congress continues to practice earmarking despite being banned. The biggest news last year though according to freebeacon.com is that the congress just approved $5.1 Billion budget for earmarking last 2016. With earmarking still being practiced, what should we expect in this country then?
Earmarking in the Past:
Looking at the different earmark projects from the past , they have one thing in common, the congressmen were funding projects that ensures re-election. When The Bridge to Nowhere became an embarrassment though, porking has stopped and the Congress tried to be more transparent – until now that they are trying to recommend earmarking again!
Earmark as a Threat to US Citizens:
Although most earmark projects are done at home, it is still considered as a waste of money. Most earmark projects aims to make the name of these politicians’ looks great and not to improve the wellness of the citizens. As the Citizens Against Government Waste say it, it is just a waste of money that could have been used to fund better projects.
Example of Wasted Earmark Projects:
- A deer avoidance system for a project price of $200,000 during incorporated within the $286.4 billion Transportation Bill in Weedsport, N.Y
- A $3 Million project that aims to mitigate dust on the rural roads of Arkansas
- $75 Million fisheries disaster fund in Alaska
The congress and allocators have been defining their spending and earmark projects as “worthy public purpose” and that it helps in boosting the income of the locals in their districts. Still, we wonder who really benefits from these projects.
How Earmark Servers as a Threat to US Citizens:
- Although we benefit from these earmark projects, the thing is it did not go through the legal competitive allocation process. It means that there can be projects that need more budget than these ‘politically earmarked projects”. This lessen the chance for better projects where a greater number of people might benefit.
- Earmarking is also a symptom of overspending. When a project is passed, it comes with different allocations and there are certain earmarks leading to more costs. For example, a Congressman passed a project for a city park for $1.5 Million with different underlying earmarked projects when in fact it can be passed for $1 Million under the bureaucratic process.
- Earmarking is also said to cause unsustainable dependencies within the institution. This simply means that the institution might start relying on their political patron granting them their wishes hence one the patron is gone, it can lead to deficiency. One example provided here is the $30 Million per annum that the University of Nebraska was receiving from Senator John Kerry as part of his earmark project. When Kerry retired, the university suddenly found itself lacking $30 Million to spend.
- Earmarks leads to bribery and more corrupt activities. According to this website, recipient of earmark projects are often private companies that helped in the funding of the current politician in power. It shows that in order to get campaign funds, something must be promised in return once the politician won. This is the same as bribing voters or buying voters as politicians promise projects that the voters might want.
- Last but not the least, earmark projects are funded by federal tax dollar. These are distributed based on the projects passed in the Congress even if it only benefits a small group. With this practice, some groups are getting more benefit to federal tax dollars as compared to other groups or population. In addition, most of these groups are close to powerful legislators, legislators who can pass any earmark project because they have powerful foes in the House of Congress as well.
How can we put a stop to earmarking? This has been an on-going fight and although watchdogs like Citizens Against Government Waste and Taxpayers for Common Sense continue to call for transparency in the Congress.
As long as there are legislators who still push and believe that earmarking is an effective way of serving the people, it seems that earmarking will remain as a widespread practice among politicans.
Besides, in Section 7 of Article I, the constitution says that the Congress has the power to spend tax.