Tuesday, October 25, 2011

That's an Earmark?!

In an desperate attempt to remain relevant in a world without earmarks Citizens Against Government Waste is releasing reports of "earmarks" in appropriations bills for FY 2012.

When the Republicans regained the majority in the House they reinstituted a ban on earmarks. The Democratically controlled Senate resisted, but eventually relented and adopted the same approach. Watchdog groups that raised money by getting people riled up over earmarks began getting nervous, no doubt; what would fuel their fundraising pleas?

It is a good thing that they define earmarks so broadly as to encompass any change in spending over the president's budget request. While CAGW lauds the Senate for reducing overall spending they accuse the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee including 16 earmarks in this year's bill. According to their release analyzing the Senate Labor-H bill:
The following are examples of pork added by the Senate to the Labor/HHS bill:
  • $111,779,000 for programs to prevent substance abuse.
  • $42,914,000 for the Teacher Quality Partnership program (TQP).  A March 2011 Government Accountability Office report that analyzed duplication within the federal government found that the TQP is one of 82 redundant teacher training programs.
  • $14,918,000 for rural hospital flexibility grants.
  • $6,990,000 for the Rural Community Facilities program.
  • $998,000 for the Training for Realtime Writers program, which provides grants to institutions of higher education to create programs to train closed caption writers.
In another release they claim that the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill contains 7 earmarks, including increased spending on rail projects.

Imagine that: The Senate has the audacity to disagree with the president. You would think that the Senate thought of itself as equal to the president! How dare they.

We are being sarcastic, of course.

It is worth pointing out that prior to the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 the Congress--consistent with the US Constitution--had sole responsibility for constructing the federal budget. The Budget Act directed the executive to propose a budget but, since it is not a Constitutional Amendment, it did not rob the Congress of the "power of the purse," it did give the executive a handy tool for shaping the budget debate.

We oppose the earmark moratorium. We argue that the moratorium has achieved nothing.

These spending proposals are not earmarks. They are Congress asserting its Constitutional prerogative to have a hand in deciding the policy priorities of the country. We need to be careful. We may find one day that CAGW has defined Congress out of existence.

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