Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Earmarks built my...

earmark: a provision in Congressional legislation that allocates a specified amount of money for a specific project, program, or organization.

National Writing Project, Reading is Fundamental Program, Center for Civic Education Programs, MN National Guard Counter-Drug Support program, Central Corridor Light Rail Program, Camp Riley Combined Arms Collective Training Facility, Upper Mississippi River System Program, National Rural Water Association, Northstar Commuter Rail Line, breast cancer research program, Lewis and Clark Rural Water System, Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, Ultra Light Utility Vehicles for the National Guard, MN National Guard Reintegration Program, Highway 14 construction projects, Hastings Bridge over the Mississippi, Aircraft deicing apron, Wind energy, waste water treatment, City of St. Paul to provide tutoring, mentoring and other educational programs and resources for after-school programs, Minnesota Humanities Center, St. Paul, MN for teacher professional development, which may include honoraria, Sheriffs Youth Programs of Minnesota to expand SYP's program for at-risk youth, Metropolitan State University, St Paul, MN, to expand nursing education, Olmsted County Community Services, to implement and sustain a performance based child protection system preventing child abuse and neglect, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, Credit Counseling Capacity Building, St. Paul, MN, fire trucks in Eagan, Children's Hospitals & Clinics, for equipment, City of St. Paul to replace the warning siren system that is used to warn the public about tornadoes, terrorism, and hazardous material emergencies...

To name just a few things, in the state of Minnesota, in the past three years. Every state has them; every state gets them; they are sponsored by republicans and democrats, and they are often how we pay for things as a government and a people. Are there bad earmarks? Probably. Just like how the majority of people are good, with a few bad ones. Stuff that's bad stands out. Good stuff doesn't. Good stuff just is, and we rely on it. It does not make news when a bridge doesn't fall down, every day, all over the country.

Mostly, earmarks are only bad when the other guy gets them or when they don't make sense to us, on the surface. That fruit fly research sounded ridiculous, until we found out that it could lead to new understanding in the root of autism spectrum disorders.

This seems like another non-issue, like voter fraud. It certainly is not going to make or break the budget or the deficit. After all, earmarks don't change the amount of money spent or appropriated, they direct it to certain projects, institutions, or organizations. But like every other non-issue, it will get people whipped up into a frenzy, even as they cut themselves off at the ankles.

Famously, the republicans in the Minnesota Congressional Delegation undertook a moratorium on earmarks last year, leaving the democrats to request funds for the republican districts, as was the case when Congresswoman McCollum submitted requests for Congressman John Kline's district. Did you know that, 2nd District?

This is what people don't get: earmarks do things. They build things. They put people to work. They retrain people. They help soldiers re-enter society. They support our teachers, our firemen and women, our police. When a representative declines an earmark or does not request one, in the name of political grandstanding, that individual is doing no harm to him or herself, but does harm constituents. The brilliant thing in the rhetoric is that the constituents don't even have to know.

Now, Congresswoman Bachmann wants to redefine earmarks to not include transportation projects, so she can ask for funding for her district, and not be asking for earmarks.

I see.

Now that you have the ball, the goalposts are over there.

1 comment:

gburnett said...

Excellent synopsis - not only are earmarks a tiny portion of the budget, but they DO things - and can be much more effective at getting things in our lives that are not necessary, but enriching. There is always some abuse, but the amount of earmarks compared to richest 2% tax cuts is minuscule. "Earmark reform" is just a smokescreen used by the dishonest to manipulate the ignorant.