In recent weeks I have used this column to criticize the massive spending Congress is poised to enact in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill. As it turns out there remains a great deal of nonsense in it. As a Christmas gift to the American taxpayer, Congress has included 9,000 earmark requests, commonly known as “pork” spending, in the Omnibus. Earmarks amount to kickbacks for groups and projects within individual Congressional districts and are well-known for their wastefulness. They are often, though not always, intended to reward local campaign donors or personal friends.
This year new rules in the House of Representatives would prohibit the addition of earmarks added to a bill in conference, but because the Omnibus spending bill is being treated as an amendment from the Senate, it is exempt from those rules. And now we have 9,000 earmarks. Never doubt the ingenuity politicians when they seek to curry voter favor at home!
The most egregious earmarks are those given to new Members of the House, such as Representative Laura Richardson (D-CA) and Representative Niki Tsongas (D-MA), who were elected in special elections after the House deadline for earmark requests had passed, according to ROLL CALL newspaper. These two Representatives secured more than $600,000 in funding for projects in their districts.
The 9,000 earmarks in the bill total more than $7.4 billion. This is yet another example of egregious Congressional waste of taxpayer money. While the bill has yet to reach President George W. Bush’s desk for approval and some earmarks theoretically could be dropped from the final version, it is highly unlikely that a significant number would be eliminated.
What is clear is that neither Republicans nor Democrats have learned from the public’s frustration with Congressional spending and wastefulness that was so prominent in the 2006 election. Members of both parties remain committed to ensuring their personal political survival rather than reducing spending and returning revenue to the taxpayers or balancing the budget.
But at least some people can look forward to “pork” for Christmas!