A few weeks ago the House of Representatives voted on a bill urging Americans to support the goals of “Financial Literacy Month” because “personal financial literacy is essential to ensure that individuals are prepared to manage money, credit, and debt, and become responsible workers, heads of households, investors.”
The bill, sponsored by Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL), drew over ninety cosponsors and was approved 423 to 1. Who could possibly disagree with the concept that Americans would benefit from learning more about responsibly managing their finances?
Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) voted no; his reason was scathing. “Congress,” said Flake, “is in no position to teach Americans how to manage their finances.” Flake means what he says. Congress should learn to become financially literate before it starts advising the American people how to balance their own checkbooks. He is offering more than mere talk; he is leading a crusade in the House to eliminate Congressional earmarks. Earmarks are the product of a process which the Congressional Research Service defines as “funds set aside within an account for individual projects, locations, or institutions.”
Earmarks are more indicative of the clout of the legislator than a compelling need on the part of the Federal Government to finance projects that often are contrary to its Constitutional obligations. Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) identified the top two recipients of pork in Fiscal Year 2006 to be Alaska ($489 per capita/$325 million) and Hawaii ($378 per capita/$482 million). Alaska’s Senator Ted Stevens (R) is Ranking Majority Member and former Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Hawaii’s Senator Daniel K. Inoyue ranks second in Democratic Senatorial seniority. All totaled 9,963 projects were stuffed into eleven appropriations bills, adding to $29 billion. Earmarks are modest by the standards of the Federal Budget but they do add to huge numbers.
Consider some of the earmarks which have received attention in recent months in news releases issued by Flake’s office: