The ban on earmarks by the House in 2010 is proving difficult to uphold. Apparently the ban applied to passing legislation with earmarks and did not in any way apply to existing earmarks. Representative Harold Rogers, a Republican who is now the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, added an earmark to a 2009 spending bill. Specifically, the purchase of $17,000 drip pans instead of the going rate on the market of $2,500. The Army has bought about $6.5 million worth of the “leakproof” drip pans in the last three years to catch transmission fluid on Black Hawk helicopters. For the last three years, that outlay of spending has continued without question racking up a fraudulent expense to the taxpayers of $5.5 million. Isn’t the Pentagon facing billions of dollars in cutbacks? But yet it didn’t occur to anyone to review the spending line item by line item to remove frivolous spending?
On the flipside of this coin is the revenue stream for our government. On Thursday, The House Ways and Means Committee published a list of approximately 1,300 proposed limited tariff bills under consideration for inclusion in legislation that Chairman Dave Camp(R-Mich.) is pushing. Since 1,284 proposals benefit 10 or fewer companies, they are flagged as “earmarks” under House rules.
The list of tariff bills includes proposals from across the ideological spectrum:
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), Rep. Peter Welch (Vt.) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.). Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) has argued that the proposals are clear violations of House rules.
It doesn’t appear that Washington is getting the taxpayers’ message at all.
Original Post Published on April 26, 2012
We have recently learned about the departmental waste of the GSA and that prompted me to look up another famous form of government waste – the earmark. Technically there should no longer be a story on earmarks because the House voluntarily imposed a ban on pork-barrel spending in 2010 and the Senate followed with the same in 2011. Tom Schatz’s watchdog group, Citizens Against Government Waste, has tracked Washington pork since 1991 and released the 21st edition of its Congressional Pig Book on April 17, 2012. The amount of tax dollars destined for earmarks in 2012 is way down to only $3.3 billion. The high was $29 billion in 2006. I’m thankful that after years of anger by taxpayers over this type of spending that our Congress has reduced the habit to only $3.3 billion.
Earmarks have been one of the traditional vehicles for members of Congress to pay debts owed to campaign contributors. A one-of-a-kind, comprehensive database is available that links campaign contributions with earmarks of members of Congress. “This tool shines a light on the current system where millions of dollars in campaign contributions can turn into billions of earmarked tax dollars,” said Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. “Funding decisions must be based on project merit. With the nation facing enormous budget deficits, we cannot afford to waste a dime.”
Instead of second-guessing a politician’s motives on every legislative action, we could end the valid and true need elected officials have to raise money. By changing the system and therefore the motivations, we can at least eliminate the need to exchange favors for campaign donations. For those claiming that using taxpayer dollars to pay for elections is a waste of money, please take note that under our current system $3.3 billion was spent for elections through ‘banned’ earmarks alone. This method of paying for elections is not reflective of free market forces at all. The perverse incentives and distorted motivations built into this system breed corruption and waste. This faulty foundation of our political system ultimately manipulates our economic system of free-market capitalism into an oligarchy. The only time we will have free-market capitalism under our current campaign financing system is when pigs fly.