Earmarks: Just a Memory?

Readers may remember a few years ago that in many U.S. House and U.S. Senate campaigns the candidates ran on the promise that they could deliver the most federal money (some called it “pork’) to their state.  Some politicians even took their state ranking high in pork received as an honor.

Although some called it pork, those receiving the funding used it for some worthwhile projects like fitness centers, homes, and dormitories on military installations.  Earmarks were also used for water projects, interpretive centers, and even for roads, bridges, and skate parks.  There was also some misuse of federal funds.

Back in 2006 during the U.S. Senate race in Montana, challenger Jon Tester was even promised a seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee to help him defeat incumbent Senator Conrad Burns.  Tester won the race and the promise was delivered to Tester by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Congressman Denny Rehberg also gained a seat on the House Appropriations Committee.

With the clout of two-thirds of their members on an appropriations committee, Montana should have been in the fast lane for Federal funding.  Residents could almost hear the cry, “build baby build” throughout the state with so much clout!

Unfortunately, the Federal Government has no money.  We are broke.  Clout on an appropriations committee does not matter that much these days.  Congress maxed out their credit card and today we are $15,669,152,700,000 in debt.  There’s hardly any money for earmarks and having a seat on the “powerful” and “influential” appropriations committee is not the “great reward” it used to be.

That was never more apparent than with the press release yesterday from the Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) of their 2012 Congressional Pig Book.  CAGW reports:

“The good news is that the number and cost of earmarks have decreased dramatically since fiscal year (FY) 2010, when the last Pig Book was published.  The number has dropped by 98.3 percent, from 9,129 in FY 2010 to 152 in FY 2012.  The cost has decreased by 80 percent, from $16.5 billion in FY 2010 to $3.3 billion in FY 2012, which is the lowest amount since 1992.”

While earmarks are a very small part of federal money spent, it’s nice to see that Congress has decreased the number and cost.  It’s a start.  But as this CBS News report finds, members of Congress are still sneaking a few earmarks in for funding calling them different names.  These folks remind me of an alcoholic sneaking a drink…

Finally, incumbents can now show voters that they are “working hard” to bring fiscal discipline to Washington, D.C.  This should help those running for re-election in 2012.  As you know if you’ve read my columns very much, it’s all about the next election in Washington, D.C….

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