Congressional earmarks — once on the endangered species list — are back from extinction and doing quite well, thank you very much.
Since 2011, Congress had banned these little slices of pork, rightfully deeming them undemocratic and wasteful. Does anyone remember the Alaskan “Bridge to Nowhere”? The Gravina Island Bridge was proposed because powerful GOP Senator Ted Stevens used an earmark to get the funding through Congress without a vote or a hearing. After the proposal became public, the project was dropped. But the bridge became synonymous with wasteful spending.
Earmarks are funds provided by Congress for projects or programs “where the congressional direction (in the bill or report language) circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process,” or “curtails the ability of the Administration to control critical aspects of how the funds are spent,” according to OMB.
In plain English, earmarks are gifts given by the taxpayers of the United States to individual members of Congress that are immune to oversight and the normal vetting process for government contracts.
And they thank us very much.
Earmarks were banned during the heyday of the Tea Party movement when ordinary citizens were actually trying to follow what Congress was spending. Now that Congress thinks no one is looking, it’s safe to go back in the water.
Here are a few choice pork-barrel projects as compiled by Fox News
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA)
Earmark: $382,000 to “Latinx Support and Access” for Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (LVUSD), $5 million to the Tri-Valley – San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority for “Valley Link Sustainability Blueprint.”
Rep. Illan Omar (D-MN)
Earmark: $1 million for Afro-Latinx Immigrant COVID-19 Workforce ReEngagement
Rep. Troy Carter (D-LA)
Earmark: $3,000,000 for artificial turf football field
Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA)
Earmark: $1,000,000 for the Raccoon River Pedestrian Bridge
Republicans have their own Hall of Shame for excessive earmarks. In truth, both parties and most members participated in pork-barrel politics before. It was common practice a decade ago to rage against excessive government spending while slipping a few hundred million dollars worth of earmarks into the budget.
This time, however, earmarks will be “reformed.” Wut?
Members will be capped at submitting 10 earmark requests per fiscal year, though members aren’t guaranteed to get those earmarks included in the annual government funding bills. Lawmakers must provide evidence their communities support the earmarks they submit. And any member submitting a request must post it online at the same time they submit their proposal to the Appropriations Committee.
The House panel plans to create a “one-stop” online portal for all House members’ earmarks requests.
Basically, the greater pull you have, the larger your earmark allocation will be.
Supporters of earmarks argue that they promote bipartisanship and allow Congress to “get things done.” What they do is promote the political careers of powerful congressmen representing powerful interests.
Do the rich really need our help to get richer?