Bill Moyers Journal: Why Earmarks Matter by Ryan Alexander

Why Earmarks Matter

Dandelion Salad

Bill Moyers Journal
by Ryan Alexander, President of Taxpayers for Common Sense

At Taxpayers for Common Sense, we believe that the impact of earmarks is greater than the billions of dollars they cost the federal treasury. With a federal budget close to $3 trillion, we know that earmarks are not the only source of government waste. But the earmarking process is a breakdown in democratic decision-making in the Congress. We are putting the unprecedented amount of power to direct billions of dollars of projects in the hands of very small group of legislators and lobbyists. The all-consuming chase for earmarks distracts Congress and takes time away from important policy debates.

This year alone, there were more than 30,000 requests for earmarks in the House of Representatives – all of which had to be reviewed by staff on the Appropriations Committee. That’s a tremendous amount of effort and time to bring $100,000 for a theater renovation or $150,000 for Robotics Training Equipment at a local community college to a local congressional district. Don’t get me wrong, these and other projects may deserve federal support, but most of us don’t get a chance to ask why these projects are better than others or why they should be funded first before other projects. The lack of a competitive or a meritorious process means that projects may be ignored in favor of those backed by the politically powerful.

When so much time and resources spent deciding which project gets $100,000 or $1 million, we divert the Congress’ attention from the major policy debates that should be guiding congressional debate. How do we address the growing federal budget deficit? How can we ensure excellence and accountability in defense spending? Are we spending more money to have private contractors do the work we used to complete with government workers?

But, possibly the worst thing about earmarks is that they have become the currency of corruption. Also, this decade of rapid growth of earmarks coincided with one of the most lax periods of Congressional oversight of the federal government. This lax scrutiny makes earmarks ripe for abuse.

What can you do to help reign in earmarking? Demand better information, and more accountability from your elected officials. An informed constituent is a powerful force. Work with Taxpayers for Common Sense to bring earmarks out of the shadows of the Congress and into the public light. TCS has been tracking all that information and pulling it together into searchable databases available to the public on our Web site. See what your member of Congress is up to.

Also, ask your lawmaker to disclose all of the earmark requests they are making. We are only able to track the successful requests, but there are tens of thousands of requests that are unknown. If a member of Congress is willing to sign on the dotted line asking for federal funding, the public should be able to know that.

Finally, after reviewing all the information, tell them what you think. And tell us what you think, too.

When one of his earmarks was challenged recently, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) complained that people were trying to take “my money.” That’s how earmarks have twisted things in Washington. It’s our money, it’s our government. Work with Taxpayers for Common Sense to make the budget more transparent and more accountable to taxpayers.FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

One thought on “Bill Moyers Journal: Why Earmarks Matter by Ryan Alexander

  1. Namiste,

    Here is what is weird that they even begin to believe that the money that they appropriate for different things is there’s to begin with. They forget that all of those tax revenues that aren’t even really there and which shouldn’t even be taxed to begin with is all paper and doesn’t even really exist in the first place. Let us not forget that we are at a 9 trillion deficit since this president has been office. Why should they care where the money is going as they feel like they have bottomless pockets and it isn’t really coming out of any of theirs. They can spend and do pork barrel projects for their friends all they wan to and be held accountable by no one. Does any one watch or even bother to care? How about this crazy war with out a viable mission statement for our troops to accomplish and to be able to say ok we have won the war is now over lets go home!!!! Hurray!!!

    What is the mission statement the defining thing that says yes we have finally won? When and what is the exit strategy? Do we even have one? Isn’t this really Piss Poor Planning the three P’s? They don’t plan on ever having them leave. They plan on building a super building hat they are going to call our Embassy and in which they might as well paint a great big bull’s eye on saying please shoot here. Place bomb here. Drive car bomb in right here. How ignorant and spending over 10 billion dollars a month for us being there that is with a B… What a hypocrisy it all is plus having Dick Cheney’s business have the multibillion dollar contracts to rebuild the infrastructure of the Iraqi nation that we blew up. What was the point of us blowing it up? How about paying for and fixing the US infrastructure? How about the homeless and the poor that we have right here in America that could be using some of those monthly billions of dollars here!!!!.

    Yes we have no real security and this presidency finds that that it can do what ever it wants to underneath the law and that they can dictate what laws that they wish to follow and when. In fact they have made it their undying shame to take pleasure in urinating upon the bill or rights and the US Constitution!!!!!

    Namiste and peace,


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