Tuesday, November 6, 2007

How Members of Congress Rationalize Their Pork

Andy Roth explodes the most popular myths (some of which, alas, Ron Paul stubbornly clings to). Here are a few:

1. Myth: “I know my district better than some unelected bureaucrat!”

Reality: Why should the Woodstock Museum be funded by the federal government, when it is clearly a parochial project? Instead, politics should be taken out of the spending process. Congress should set the overall budget allocations, while the agencies should be in charge of the day-to-day spending priorities. When politics interfere with that process, money gets misallocated, abuse is rife, and tax dollars get wasted.

2. Myth: Earmarks don’t increase spending because they are contained within the budget cap. It is true that after the budget resolution is accepted, there is a self-imposed budget cap on overall spending. Earmarks are simply carved out of that total. So if earmarks are removed from the budget, technically speaking, no money is saved. The money would just be re-appropriated.

Reality: But this is a very narrow interpretation. A broader explanation would suggest that if there weren’t any earmarks, the budget cap could initially be reduced.

3. Myth: “I’m fighting to get our fair share!”

Reality: A member will . . . support[] pork projects because he believes he has a responsibility to his constituents to claim their “fair share.” After all, the thinking goes, if Kansas taxpayers don’t receive pork, then they will just be paying for the pork in other states while getting nothing in return. . . . At what point in the future can we expect members of Congress to base their behavior on principle rather than on childish excuses? Being in Congress isn’t about being a porker on behalf of your state or district; it’s about defending and upholding the Constitution.