Paul Jacob

But is this program so critical as to require that money be taken from taxpayers — loot that might instead be spent on piano lessons for folks’ own kids?

“I thought it was a program that would be a positive program,” says Hoyer.

What a ringing endorsement, eh? It’ll be “positive.” In other words, not “negative.” (As the bumper sticker says, “Just say ‘No’ to Negativity!”)

Does every group doing anything “positive” deserve half a million in taxpayer dough?

Michael Blakeslee with the National Association for Music Education doesn’t think so. He contacted The Washington Post after a recent news story about this pork project to say: “My heavens! We have such a need in this field. The thought of a pile of money, where nobody can explicitly state what they’re going to do for kids, is disturbing.”

Of course, another reason for Hoyer’s generosity with our money might just be the more than $30,000 that Hoyer’s political action committee has received from folks connected to InTune. Yeah, there’s that.

But Hoyer was quick to inform the Post that this earmark was not at all a quid pro quo, even while acknowledging a link between the earmarks he champions and his contributors. “If you support something . . . either through legislative language or verbal support or appropriated dollars,” Hoyer explained, “what happens is the proponents of those objectives wind up saying they want to support you.”

Added Hoyer, “Sometimes it’s a question of which is the chicken and which is the egg.”

Yes, this is the scrambled logic of our Congress. Well, not our Congress — Hoyer’s Congress.

In fact, though Hoyer supported the watered-down earmark “reform” legislation passed earlier in this Congress, he has long supported what he calls “good pork.” A euphemism for his pork.

The argument is often made that congressmen know better than the federal bureaucracy what is needed in their district. Though this isn’t even necessarily true, it is beside the point for a number of important reasons.

First, the specific needs being discussed aren’t usually needs at all. They are wants. And most often, these wasteful wants serve very few taxpayers even in the recipient district.

Second, the needs or wants of any given district, state or locality ought to be funded as much as possible by those who live there. Not by people living everywhere else. The standards by which spending decisions are made when using other people’s money are never likely to be as high as when people are spending their own dough. (If you disagree, just send me all your money. I’ll spend it with the utmost care.)

Last, but not least, the ability for individual congressmen to personally earmark federal spending is an invitation to bribery and corruption. Earmarks allow members of Congress to use the federal treasury as their individual slush fund, dangling the largess of the federal leviathan to special interests for campaigns contributions.

That earmarks are becoming more transparent is surely good. But earmarks are inherently wasteful and corrupting. And corruption remains corruption even when done in broad daylight.

Which is why the best Christmas present would be a complete ban on earmarks. Congressfolk can surely find better things to do than don fake beards and red suits to hand out goodies to . . . themselves.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.