That whooshing sound you hear coming from Washington DC is the sound of the newly elected “Tea Party” Republicans waffling on their pledges to reduce the size of government and cut spending. While the incoming Republican majority went through the motion of voting to ban earmarks, the lame duck legislators still in power aren’t bound by similar constraints.
The tax cut deal being brokered, naturally in secret and behind closed doors, will probably include enough pork grease to ease passage. Included in the compromise is a 13 month extension of unemployment benefits and subsidies for ethanol.
Democratic Rep. Brad Miller may have been right when he called the Republican earmark ban “a sound bite in search of substance.” Miller, the proud sponsor of more than $26.7 million in earmarks himself, said that one member’s pork is another member’s infrastructure project.
Rep.-elect Renee Ellmers seems to agree with Miller’s theory of pork relativity. Ellmers said she would look at each proposal closely, especially expenditures for transportation and defense which are both important issues to North Carolina. Even Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, the Mother Superior of Tea Party mamma grizzles, said that advocating for transportation projects in your district does not equate to an earmark.
“If it’s going to be a good expenditure of taxpayer’s money, I will go to bat for it, ” the Tea Party backed Republican said. Ellmers upset long-time Democratic incumbent Bob Etheridge in a close Congressional District 2 race.
Note the use of the phrase “good expenditure of taxpayer money.” Apparently the theory of pork relativity does not take into account whether or not an expenditure is constitutional, whether or not it is for a program or activity that is within the proper role of government, or whether or not it is even necessary.
Defenders of earmarks and pork are also quick to point out that these expenditures represent only a small fraction, about one percent, of federal spending and that the money is already allocated and would be spent anyway. Again, there is no consideration of constitutionality, proper or needed.
Rep. David Price, a Democrat, said Congress would abdicate its responsibility if it gave the president power to make all spending decisions. “It’s a central congressional power, the power of the purse,” he said. Apparently Price is not as concerned about Congress abdicating its responsibility to the president or federal bureaucrats and agents in other areas, including declaring war, protecting civil liberties and coining money.
One local government official characterized his city’s lobbying for federal tax dollars as “the American way.” Kanapolis city manager Mike Legg said the city would revise it strategy and pressure federal agencies rather than Congress to steer money their way.
Legg invoked a peculiar interpretation of the First Amendment right to petition government for redress of grievances. “We should have the right to petition our government to bring back tax dollars for local efforts,” he said Mike Legg.