I hope Senator Tom Coburn is not paying attention right now from heaven. The ugly and corrosive system of Congressional “earmarks,” which he helped end, is back with a vengeance. Numerous Republicans have, unfortunately, jumped on board with the Democrat majority to end the earmark ban.
Last week, $5.7 billion of pet projects made their way into the $547 billion highway bill. While Washington lurches out-of-control with unconscionable borrowing and spending, over 1,400 earmark requests were written into the bill released by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Supporters say earmarks are simply a normal part of Congress’s power of the purse, and individual members need a chance to direct local projects. The reality is earmarks lead to wasteful spending and serve as a tool for leaders to reward or punish members.
As our friends from the Cato Institute argue, subsidies for state and local spending induce states to be spendthrifts, cause cost overruns to become chronic, and base funding on political factors instead of marketplace demands.
It won’t take long before we hear about another “bridge to nowhere.” For now, we can shake our heads at the resurrection of a vapid political weapon. At the same time, let’s applaud members like our own Congressman Kevin Hern who had the courage last week to take a stand and still say “No” to earmarks!