It is a welcome change for the President to acknowledge the corruption and fiscal irresponsibility of the earmark process. That said, the executive order is not enough. Just last month Bush signed into law what the WASHINGTON POST calls "a phone-book-size spending bill that funded virtually the entire federal government." It included, notes THE POST, $150,000 for a visitor's center at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, New York; $975,000 for curriculum development at the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas; and $100,000 to turn the old Coca-Cola bottling plant in Romney, West Virginia into an arts and culture center. All of these projects will be allowed to keep their money. Bush's executive order will not take effect until Fiscal Year 2009, which begins October 1, 2008. According to THE POST, Democratic leaders plan to hold back spending bills this fall in the hope that a Democratic President will be in office next year and will pass all of their spending bills unaltered, thereby ignoring Bush's executive order.
A group of Republican Congressmen hopes to change the status quo in Washington by pledging to forego permanently all earmarks for their home districts, encouraging others to do so and signing a moratorium on the practice with Democratic leaders, who themselves vociferously criticized the practice early in 2007. In the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) appointed a Fiscal Reform Working Group this week to "review the earmark process for spending and revenue and recommend additional means for the Senate to bring greater transparency and fiscal responsibility to government spending." Let's hope that the Group will succeed and a bipartisan effort in Congress permanently will end the practice.
It was important for the President to remind Americans and Congress of the troubling problem earmarks pose for fiscal responsibility (and, I would add, their potential for corruption). Unfortunately, his plan, as declared in his State of the Union, is too little, too late.