|11-19-2010, 05:59 PM||#1|
Angling in the Deep
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Texas Riviera, Southern Mountains
Ban on Pet Projects Mostly Symbolic
Republicans have been beating their chests about this and as most informed people already knew, it won't make a difference...
Ban on pet projects mostly symbolic
By ALAN FRAM, Associated Press Alan Fram, Associated Press 42 mins ago
WASHINGTON Despite their claims, the Republicans' ban on earmarks won't stop lawmakers from steering taxpayers' dollars to pet projects. And it will have little if any effect on Washington's far graver problem the gigantic budget deficit.
Saying Election Day victories gave them a mandate to curb spending, Republicans formally agreed last week to a two-year prohibition of earmarks, legislative provisions that funnel money to lawmakers' favorite projects. President Barack Obama has said he, too, wants to restrict earmarks, though he defended some as helping communities.
"I am proud that House and Senate Republicans have united to end the earmark favor factory," said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a leader in the drive to stop the practice.
While the ban will make it harder for lawmakers to bring pork-barrel spending back home, it is far from airtight.
Savvy members of Congress have options like "phone-marking," picking up the telephone and pressuring agency officials to spend money on specific projects. Lawmakers are sure to exploit uncertainty over exactly how the ban will be applied, such as whether it will bar money for projects already in the works. And Democrats, who will still run the Senate next year, have not agreed to the restrictions. Neither have some Republicans.
"There's no way you can stamp out every effort" by lawmakers to bring home the bacon, said Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., another leading earmark foe. "But you can marginalize it."
Even completely eliminating earmarks would hardly ensure that spending decisions will be objective and divorced from politics. Presidents and agency officials control where many federal dollars go and have always used that power to reward allies. And formulas that automatically disburse other funds to states are themselves products of past political compromises, with their own sets of winners and losers.
"It makes those who ranted and raved against earmarks feel good," Robert Reischauer, the Urban Institute president and former chief of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, said of the GOP ban. "But it is largely cosmetic."
Spending for earmarks peaked in 2006, when lawmakers diverted $29 billion to hometown projects, according to Citizens Against Government Waste. The numbers have dipped to about $16 billion last year for 9,000 earmarks, thanks to public pressure and the infamy of influence-seekers like the convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
That $16 billion is undeniably real money, but it amounts to just half of 1 percent of the $3.5 trillion federal budget. Lawmakers carve most earmarks from within agency budgets, so eliminating them would not save money but simply mean it would be spent on something else.
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