Monday, September 15, 2008

The Argument to Nowhere

It never fails. Every four years, politicians pick a bogey man to distract the American voter. If I have to read one more story dissecting who requested how much in earmarks and what for, I think my brain will turn to mush. So why am I even writing about this? Good question. I have no answer; my brain is already half mush.

Here's the deal: Earmarks represent money already set aside by Congress for projects to be carried out by federal agencies. If lawmakers didn't claim the money for their own districts, the federal bureaucracy would decide, behind closed doors, how to spend that money. Cutting the number of earmarks does not, I repeat, DOES NOT, cut spending.

Of course, I would love that money to never have been turned over to Washington. But the money's in Washington's bank account, not ours. So how better to ensure it is returned to its constituents in some form than for lawmakers to grab it in the form of earmarks, which, by the way, represents about 2 percent of the total federal budget.

The problem isn't earmarks, though. It's much bigger than that. 98 percent bigger, to be exact. And the focus on who asked for how much and for what is a tidy little diversion. (Oh, how I wish my own colleagues would DO THEIR JOB and stop letting politicians lead them around by the nose.)

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