(Chuck Muth) – Nevada blogger Mark Anderson is an obviously smart guy and card-carrying limited-government conservative/libertarian. And he wrote something very important for everyone to understand in his blog yesterday:
“Earmark reform? I can’t say I’m on board with earmark reform. The words of Frank Chodorov come to mind. It’s sort of like trying to clean up the whorehouse, but leave the business intact. The germ of error here is conflating earmarks with spending. Earmarks do not increase spending by one cent. All earmarks could be eliminated, yet government spending – the real issue – still increases.”
Mark is absolutely correct.
However, symbolism has effect and power in politics. Showing at least a willingness to swear off earmarks gives casual voters an indication of where candidates are on the overall spending issue. And as Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, has so rightly pointed out, earmarks are the gateway drug to spending addiction.
That said, make no mistake: You could eliminate each and every earmark and we’d still have Obama deficits as far as the eye can see. The big problem is reducing entitlements, not the relatively minor pot of chump change represented by earmarks.
But as Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform explains, here’s why ending earmarks must be such an important objective for limited government, fiscal conservatives. Let’s say the government has a million to spend for each congressional district. And out of that million dollars, $50,000 of it is given to each congress-critter to spend as he or she sees fit – an “earmark.”
As long as that member of Congress gets to spend that $50,000 on whatever that member of Congress wants or thinks will help him or her get re-elected….they don’t care about the rest of the $950,000 which is being spent by government bureaucrats.
But if you take away the congress-critter’s “taste,” then those same congress-critters are gonna be unhappy with letting the bureaucrats spend the entire million dollars themselves. At which time many who are now happy with getting their little slice of the pie will rediscover their “inner Reagans” and start making the pie smaller for the bureaucrats.
“If I can’t spend the money, neither can you.”
Grover also points out that earmarks are like broken windows in a neighborhood. You see an unrepaired broken window on one house and you have to think there’s something far more wrong below the surface and around the entire area. Well, earmarks are spending’s broken windows. They’re a sign of a much bigger problem.
So while Mark is absolutely correct that earmarks don’t increase spending by one cent, they are, nevertheless, symbols of what truly ails our bloated federal government and budget. And they’re the low-hanging fruit. If we can’t get rid of earmarks, we’ll never bring Social Security, Medicare and the other big fish programs under control.
Or think of it in reverse. If we can’t eliminate relatively minor earmarks, how in the world is anyone going to believe we can eliminate the big ticket items?
Probably the worst failure of Republicans following the 1994 take-over of Congress was their inability to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts. That program spends less than chump change, relative to the overall federal budget. Yet Republicans, full of anti-government piss and vinegar after their stunning ballot-box victory, couldn’t even get rid of this one, tiny federal and unconstitutional program.
That failure was a broken window signal that the promise held out by the Contract with America was not going to be realized; that Republicans were less interested in shrinking government as in running it differently. It took a decade and the Bush presidency to wake the nation up to the reality that, in many ways, Republicans were just as bad as, if not worse than, Democrats.
And we’re all paying for it dearly now under the Obama/Reid/Pelosi regime.
So yes. Let’s fix the earmark broken window first….and then move on to fixing up the rest of the neighborhood. Just as Mark Anderson says.