Earmark eradication

Since the 112th Congress began to meet this year, with its new Republican majority in the House, representatives from both parties have agreed to end the use of earmarks to gain funding for special projects for their constituencies.  Some leaders have claimed for, and some against, their use over the past several years, but all agree that now is a politically expedient time to target them for potential cost cutting in the national budget.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) listens to questions from reporters after a meeting of House Republicans January 25, 2011 in Washington, DC.

Earmarks account for an approximate $8 billion drop in the bucket in a massive deficit expanding budget.  Despite their relatively low amount, they are an easy call out.  Pet projects like road expansions, specific social services, and rehabilitation projects are a blatant redistribution of national wealth to localized communities.  And their justification is, at times, hard to find.

Now that the much aligned earmarks have been struck from the political playbill, citizens are feeling the strain.  With an impending national budget freeze, proclaimed top down by the President, and increasingly strained local budgets due to the economic frost, some local projects depend heavily, and only, upon earmarks to secure their funding.  These projects will now need to look elsewhere; most likely to an ever more competitive pool of grants and private assistance.

The responsiveness of the government to the demands of its people should be lauded.  Not only did leaders reduce, however minimally, their discretionary spending of citizens’ income, they have also made their spending more transparent.  The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 launched USASpending.gov, a website built to provide information to citizens about how their tax dollars are spent.  While the data represents what the government has legislated to give out for projects, not the actual cash eventually disbursed for the work, the idea is novel and the sentiment encouraging.

The people asked and they have received.  Now is not the time to debate whether “receiving” less from government coffers is good or bad.  Neither is it time to rest.  As representatives are caving to the will of the people, the people should maintain an element of opportunism.  We got an inch; let us see how close we can come to a mile.

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