Federalism

Federalism Is Taking Money from Other States and Giving It to Ours

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In a letter to constituents, Idaho Republican Congressman Mike Simpson defends earmarking…as an exercise in federalism.

Earmarking, by its very nature, shifts discretion over federal dollars away from the federal agencies and puts the funds out on the ground in American communities. Earmarked dollars generally go to projects that are short-term in nature and small in scope.  Last year, earmarks we sponsored built new wastewater infrastructure in Bonners Ferry, supported jobs at the Idaho National Laboratory, improved housing for families at Mountain Home Air Force Base, and expanded course offerings at Boise State University.  And that is not all.

If federal dollars weren't earmarked for these projects, they would be deposited in the accounts of federal agencies where they would be spent on the growth of the federal government and creation of never-ending programs.  When more of their funding is earmarked, the less federal agencies have to grow their bloated bureaucracies.

We have always believed that better decisions are made by local officials.  Who would you rather have making decisions about funding for Idaho?  Lawmakers who are accountable to you, or some nameless, faceless bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., who has never stepped foot in Idaho?  If we abandon the practice of earmarking funding for our home states, those decisions will instead be made, and dollars spent, by tens of thousands of bureaucrats who have no accountability to taxpayers, voters, or anyone else for that matter.

Better we spend taxpayer dollars than Washington bureaucrats—a fine bit of rhetorical jujitsu. Simpson and his colleagues in the Idaho congressional delegation are doing a fine job promoting this unique brand of "federalism."   According to the Tax Foundation, Idaho gets $1.28 back from the federal government for every dollar its citizens pay in federal taxes.

Hat tip:  Brandon Arnold.

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  1. Would they mind earmarking a check directly to me. You can’t get more grassroots than handing people’s money back to them. You know, individuals know what to do with money better than communities even.

  2. What’s the general reason for the discrepency between what a state pays in taxes and what it gets back? I mean, I read what the tax foundation article says, but I must admit that I’m both too tired and too ignorant to really figure it out at this time.

    Also, how would a state go about reducing the tax burden to the feds? Are a lot of those taxes federal or state?

    Damn, I feel like an idiot on this one, but I’d like to hear an explantion to help me out here! 🙂

    Now I do get that this Simpson guy is going through some serious mental gymnastics to make his point. I love his list of things earmarks has done for his state – as if those things are necessarily within the perview of the gov’t. I’m just not getting the intricacies of taxes, I guess. Not that anyone in the gov’t would really want me to…

  3. Well, given the massive borrowing done by the feds to cover their defecits, I would expect that most states do have more money spent within their borders than are extracted via taxes. If you spend more than you make…

  4. It seems like federal earmark funds are the only reason why Idaho gives the Federal Government the time of day. Too bad they don’t realize that, no matter how much free money they get, the union still isn’t neccessarily a good deal for them. If I lived in a sparsely populated western state, I’d run for the state legislature on a secession platform.

  5. One of the best political bolg , I came across on net. As per this topic, I would say taxes are collected for whole development of the country. If certain states require more attention in any area, its correct to earmark some extra funds for that specific purpose.

    My name is Mark Johnson, and I’ve been visiting “Hit & Run” for last few months.

    I’m a recent UC Berkeley Political science grad and I along with some fellow Princeton alums have been working hard to launch our own internet startup called Rizzleweb.com.
    Rizzleweb is basically an online political community where people can log on and write performance reviews\comments for congressmen, senators, the president, and various other local and state officials across the country. I was hoping that if it would not be too much trouble you could place a link of our site on your blog. If this is not possible (which we completely understand), we still hope you will check out our site, and post some reviews.
    Your contribution will encourage us to put more effort in improving our website.
    Mark Johnson
    http://www.Rizzleweb.com
    markjohnson2020@hotmail.com

  6. those are some extraordinary gymnastics. i think the over all point is a reasonable one, that better decisions can be made for a location by those actually in it. however, Lost in Translation’s point is a logical rejoinder to that argument. further, if money wasn’t available to earmark, then what would this congressman write home about?

    not sure about idaho’s status, but i wonder what his take on these earmarks and their adherence to federalism would be when he realizes he’s likely spending new york’s money.

    Mark Johnson, if you’ve been reading H&R for any time at all and want to solicit its readers and earn their respect, you must avoid the following mistakes you’ve made:
    1. Berkeley
    2. support for federal spending
    and most importantly
    3. typos/grammatical errors

    oh, and the eagles. people here seem to really hate the eagles. and coldplay.

  7. LOL, perhaps MJ doesn’t seek respect, but fast ‘n furious commentary. Which he will certainly get if he posts to a libertarian-leaning site with howlers like “If certain states require more attention in any area, its correct to earmark some extra funds for that specific purpose.”

    Extra funds = cash withheld from my paycheck.

    I think if it is necessary to upgrade the infrastructure at Bonners Ferry, then Idahoans should pay for it themselves. Or bug Canada for the money. They’re probably closer to Calgary than they are to Boise.

  8. Oh, and Mark –
    Get a real job.

    =)

  9. Basically, his mistake for this crowd is that he didn’t preface his remark with “realistically, a reduction in earmarks wouldn’t be accompanied by a reduction in taxes.” Because that’s the reality. Of course, it doesn’t make his explanation any less dishonest.

    And I’m uncomfortable with all these posts lately about Idaho. Y’all are supposed to think it doesn’t exists.

  10. Why does someone with so thoroughly American a name as “Mark Johnson”, and supposely a Berkeley grad besides, sound so much like the guy who writes 419 scams?

  11. All the questions of Mark’s post aside, the website seems like a really cool concept, rate your Congressmen/Senator, boy can I use four letter words?

  12. Here’s an idea. Ahem:
    FUCKING GIVE THE FUCKING MONEY BACK TO THE FUCKING PEOPLE.

    Thank you.

  13. Would they mind earmarking a check directly to me.

    If you don’t mind hiring the right lobbyist, I’m sure that can be arranged.

  14. That was certainly stretching the wonderful nature of taxation to new extremes. Flawed only in that regardless of how much they earmark away the Federal Bloat still grows regardless of the cash on hand. What is the national debt up to these days pushing 8 Trillion, I hardly think we got that number through the wonders of earmarks and the smaller Federal Government it allows to be created.

    Mark- I do like the concept of your website for reviewing politicians. I had a similar idea in college to do that with Professors. We always had to fill out a survey at the end of each semester but we never saw that results.

    One class I took required making a webpage and when I proposed this to the professor the idea was shot down immediately and questioned as even being legal. Tell me what do people who can not be fired due to tenure have to fear about their customers writing reviews of their services?

    Good luck with the site. The only question I have is why did you and your friends spend so much money on elitist schools to launch a website? Shouldn’t you all be hob snobbing with Kerry and the boys? j/k

  15. ” Who would you rather have making decisions about funding for Idaho? Lawmakers who are accountable to you, or some nameless, faceless bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., who has never stepped foot in Idaho? If we abandon the practice of earmarking funding for our home states, those decisions will instead be made, and dollars spent, by tens of thousands of bureaucrats who have no accountability to taxpayers, voters, or anyone else for that matter.”

    Eerily enough, that is almost identical to a statement made by Conrad Burns recently. Great minds think alike, I suppose.

    In my part of Montana, there has been a major I90 bridge repair/ replacement program in progress this summer; I accept this as a legitimate use of federal highway funds. I do not, however believe that a new parking garage ($4 million) in downtown Bozeman qualifies as proper.

  16. While defending earmarking isn’t popular, Simpson certainly has a point. If earmarking were outlawed tomorrow, federal spending wouldn’t go down one dime. It would simply mean that federal agencies would have more money to spend at their discretion. Earmarks don’t increase the amount of federal spending; earmarks reduce the amount of money that are distributed according to the criteria/whims of federal bureaucrats.

    I think that people who focus exclusively on earmarks lose sight of that. If anti-government waste people elminate earmarks, taxpayers will be no better off. We should focus more on reducing government spending, not arguing over whether federal bureaucrats or Senate/Congressional staff divy up that money. After all, if $1 million in taxpayer money is spent by Rep. Simpson or $1 million is spent by Faceless Bureaucrat in the Dept. of Transportation, that’s still $1 million in taxpayer money being spent.

  17. Renob – Amen!

  18. “If earmarking were outlawed tomorrow, federal spending wouldn’t go down one dime. It would simply mean that federal agencies would have more money to spend at their discretion. Earmarks don’t increase the amount of federal spending; earmarks reduce the amount of money that are distributed according to the criteria/whims of federal bureaucrats.”

    I disagree. If corrupted politicians are prohibited from buying your vote with money they stole from you, they would have no incentive to increase the budget of any federal agency. They might actually reduce spending.

  19. So, not only is earmarking an aspect of federalism, it is libertarian patriotism of the highest sort! “See, by taking all the money back to our state, we’re starving the federal bureaucratic beast. We’re sticking it to THE MAN!”

    Right. The Man. The man on the street, that is. Any street outside of Idaho. Oh yes, and the Woman, too.

  20. “We should focus more on reducing government spending, not arguing over whether federal bureaucrats or Senate/Congressional staff divy up that money.”

    equals

    “We should pay attention to what the magician is doing with his left hand, rather than to the shiny coin in his right hand.”

    The first step toward reining in spending, — which, I agree, is the key concern — is to hit Congress upside the head with a 2×4. Fire all incumbents. Let them know that the people are in charge, that they all can be replaced, that there is no such thing as a “safe district.” Replace them not with their opponents in the other “power party,” but with qualified independents or third-party candidates, wherever possible.

    While the Congress is stumbling around, seeing stars from the electoral boot-to-the-head and the new blood transfusion, perhaps we can begin to get the handle on spending that we must have to survive as a nation with a republican form of government that is responsive to, and not predatory on, the people.

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