Debate over earmarks continues
Despite Republicans caucuses in both the House and Senate imposing a moratorium on requests for earmarks, the debate on the practice is still going on. Here is an excellent explanation by Veronique de Rugy of why earmarks are harmful:
In response to the argument that earmarks don’t actually increase spending, Jacob Levy has made a case that earmarks do: first, because diverting money to wasteful programs means that “all the needs that weren’t met this year will arise again next year”; second, because earmarks bills often emerge out of House-Senate committees with higher appropriations levels; and third, because the earmarking members of Congress are the same powerful committee members who set the appropriations level, and “the knowledge that they were going to have a chance to start shoveling pork a little bit later in the process affected how much they appropriated at the beginning.”
Also, who remembers this interesting working paper by three Harvard economists on what happens to a state when one of its senators becomes chair of a powerful committee? First, it causes the value of earmarks to the state to increase by almost 50 percent; second, it depresses private capital investment and R&D spending in the state. In other words, earmarks crowd out the private sector.
And if you’re still not convinced that earmarks are harmful, remember what Cato’s Dan Mitchell pointed out: “Earmarks are utterly corrupt. The fact that they are legal does not change the fact that they finance a racket featuring big payoffs to special interests, who give big fees to lobbyists (often former staffers and Members), who give big contributions to politicians. Everyone wins … except taxpayers.”
As I’ve said here before, eliminating earmarks are not a cure all for the budget. But if politicians can’t rid the budget of these pork projects, they’re never going to tackle the bigger fiscal problems that face the nation.