The Loneliness of Jeff Flake

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Porkbusting Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is still preaching the limited government gospel to his congressional colleagues, though they are, obviously, not paying much attention (I'm looking at you too, Ron Paul). Flake's hometown paper, The Arizona Republic, counts exactly one recent anti-earmark victory:

But out of a total of 50 earmarks totaling more than $77 million that he challenged this year, Flake was able to persuade a majority of his colleagues to vote against only one, a grant of $129,000 for the Mitchell County, N.C., Development Foundation to run the Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree project.

It was his first victory.

Although Flake did prevail against the Christmas-tree funding, he lost by wide margins on votes to cut other earmarks that would seem easy targets for budget hawks. Take, for example, a $250,000 grant for a wine and culinary center in Prosser, Wash. Or $100,000 for a hunting and fishing museum in Tionesta, Pa. Or $628,843 to pay for grape genetics research at Cornell University.

Flake, says the Republic, isn't getting much local party support either:

The rest of Arizona's Republican delegation rarely joins Flake. Only Rep. John Shadegg regularly votes to cut the earmarks Flake highlights. The lack of support from Republicans makes it hard to take GOP outrage about government spending at face value.

Whole story here.

NEXT: Ron Paul Rising (and Winning the Black Vote) in New Hampshire?

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  1. Shocka: Republicans love the blood money that fuels their re-elections as much as the Democrats.

    I have to give this guy credit, though. He is endlessly smacked down but keeps on trying, in the face of near zero support.

  2. I have been told that an “earmark” does not alter total government spending. The “earmark” merely diverts the spending to a use designated by the member of Congress. Otherwise, some nameless bureaucrat would determine how the money is spent.

    Does anyone here know if this is true or how “earmarks” work?

  3. If these people want to spend money I have an idea, how about a program where Law students across the country get to work off their student loans by going over bills before they are passed and making stuff public.

  4. Yes, that’s exactly right. It’s just a matter of putting into a bill increased specificity as to how some of an appropriation gets spent.

    Those who criticize earmarks as wasteful must believe that the bill without the earmark(s) answered some spending “need” from which the earmark likely subtracted, “requiring” more spending to make up for that diversion. I don’t.

  5. However, Mr. Paul usually votes against final spending bills containing his earmarks when they reach the House floor. So far this year he has voted against funding bills for military construction, veterans and state-foreign operations. He did not cast a vote when the Homeland Security and legislative funding bills were on the floor.

    So he stuffs the bill with pork and then votes against the poke laden bill. I can live with that. Being a champion of fiscal responsibility should require you to make martyrs of your constituency, voting on principal as the corrupt establishment sucks it dry.

  6. I have heard the same about earmarks. The money has already been allocated, all an earmark does is say where it will be spent.

    The pie has already been paid for, baked, and sliced up. Getting a thin slice of it for your constituents is not a sin.

  7. ARRRRGH
    …responsibility shouldn’t require you to…

  8. Why is it so hard for a congresscritter to say to his constituents, “Yes, I admit I voted against the $100,000 statue of Wayne Newton that would have graced our district, but look, I also voted against umpteen thousand boondoogles and bushwa that would have sent your tax money to 434 other congressional districts.” If the voters are too craven or too stupid to understand then we deserve the
    screwing.

  9. Paul has been atrocious on earmarks and uses them himself. He sought earmarks for powerful interest groups in his district.

    Earmarks are out of spending allocated but redirects them to the benefit of the individual politician. Moving this to the political arena is not an improvement over a “nameless bureaucrat.” Often such measures do lead to long-term budgetary increases in fact. If a highway bill allocates $100 million to repair bridges, and the politicians syphon off $10 million for other projects that win them votes, the repair projects are short-changed. This typically is bad up later with a bill that then requests another $10 million for the repairs, or perhaps $20 million by then due to further decay and rising costs.

    Paul’s partisan use the excuse that it doesn’t raise the budget to justify an unjustifiable project in order to keep the image of St. Paul alive and well. Apparently the idea that the earmark doesn’t immediately increase the budget is used to pretend that long term it doesn’t put pressure on further budgetary increases. In addition it is used to expand the number of special interest groups living at taxpayer expense and to increase the support for such redistributive measures.

    Paul, for instance, gave earmarks to a theatre that was renovating and to his local shrimp industry. Neither of which are constitutionally mandated proving the lie about never supporting measures that violate the constitution.

    It should also be noted that sometimes the nameless bureaucrats do a better job than the named politicians campaigning for election. For instance politicians prefer massive building projects that they can open up for the public, cut the ribbon, have their photo taken. Often the nameless bureaucrats see bridges that need repair. It’s not sexy and doesn’t generate publicity. The politician diverts funds from needed repairs to unneeded glitzy projects that increase publicity for himself or do favors for powerful lobby groups or reward campaign contributors. The earmark process is ripe with corruption. All in all the political allocation of these funds is worse than the bureaucratic allocation since it is more open to corruption and perverse incentives. Both suffer that problem but politicians have more such perverse incentives.

  10. Put it any way you want. Earmarks are used to fund projects in lawmakers states/districts that would never stand on their own merits. Of course it drives up total appropriations. Jeez!

  11. I’m not saying earmarks aren’t horrible. I’m saying that if everybody else gets theirs and you stand on principal, the result is your get raped over and over.

  12. Take, for example, a $250,000 grant for a wine and culinary center in Prosser, Wash. … Or $628,843 to pay for grape genetics research at Cornell University.

    I’m all for cutting pork, but cutting off money for wine and grape research? Now you’re going too far!!!!

    😉

  13. cls wrote:

    “Paul, for instance, gave earmarks to a theatre that was renovating and to his local shrimp industry. Neither of which are constitutionally mandated proving the lie about never supporting measures that violate the constitution.”

    What is unconstitutional is that the income of his constituents were taxed by the federal government in the first place. That he threw in something to give them some of their money back, while voting against the actual unconstitutional part of the process, is just terrible in your eyes. I mean, since these bills pass, period…

    So, according to YOUR logic, his constituents should just lose their money that was taken away from them to pay for a bridge to nowehere instead of something that will benefit them?

    You amatuer smear artists miss the entire point. Dr. Paul is AGAINST federal income taxes period! No earmarks, no pork barrel spending, no appropriations with NO income tax.

    So silly and amatuerish of you!

    BTW, I expect you to take NO exemptions from your income taxes, since obviously you believe you shouldn’t get some of your money back. I mean, it should really be spent on a bridge to nowhere in a state you might never even visit, right? Right?

  14. If the voters are too craven or too stupid to understand then we deserve the
    screwing.

    Pork rarely helps the general populace so much as a few focused constituents (re: donors). The new road or bridge often does a lot more for the property values of the land it opens access to than it does to help the inhabitants of the town, for example.

  15. Earmarks are out of spending allocated but redirects them to the benefit of the individual politician. Moving this to the political arena is not an improvement over a “nameless bureaucrat.”

    Generally that nameless bureacrat is a state-level politician, deciding how they’ll spend block grants from the US.

    Now would be a good time to note that the Democratic Congress has cut earmarks to a third the GOP level, and has massively increased transparency.

  16. Now would be a good time to note that the Democratic Congress has cut earmarks to a third the GOP level, and has massively increased transparency.

    A good thing, no doubt. Will this fiscal resonsibility zeal survive in a secure Democratic congress? Bets, anyone?

  17. That was hilarious! Kinda the ANTI DUNDEROOOO post of the day.

    Hay Scott! Since you’re the anti dunderoo, can we assume you’re in Canada, now?

    Whenever you see the DUNDEROOOOOOOO! comment, come a-runnin’ cuz the favorite colon parasite of Giuliani frequent these hier places, and his frothing is something that I’d bet you’d really find funny!!

  18. I’m saying that if everybody else gets theirs and you stand on principal, the result is your get raped over and over.

    So, does mean you shouldn’t stand on principle unless there’s little cost?

  19. Scott: You are a true Paulist endowed with faith to move mountains and pretend that pork is not really pork. For his next trick Ron will walk on water.

    Let me correct something claim. You say that unless Ron hands out pork “his constituents” would lose the money taken away from them for a bridge to nowhere. Talk about myths and being misinformed.

    The bridge to nowhere was an earmark! If anything, that absurdity is one reason to be against earmarks. You are defending the process that makes such projects possible while pretending the project proves the opposite.

    The earmarks that Ron gives out go no more to his constituents than any other federal spending in his district. It goes to special interest groups who come to him with hat in hand asking him to bestow special favors on them, which he does. If Paul gave $1 back to each taxpayer that is one thing, to shower funds on special interest groups isn’t tax rebates its socialism.

    And remember the bridge you whine about came about because men like Paul defend earmarks. That is the sort of lunacy you get from such projects. And you are defending the process that creates such bridges to nowhere.

    Finally if every subsidy or earmark can be justified by the idea that people are only getting back what they paid in, then precisely what spending wouldn’t be justified? I would think that 99.99% of all federal spending eventually goes to someone who has paid taxes. Thus spending on anything could be called a tax rebate — the line of argument you are using. Is this the sort of “libertarian” thinking we are getting from the Paul camp?

  20. Earmarks are out of spending allocated but redirects them to the benefit of the individual politician. Moving this to the political arena is not an improvement over a “nameless bureaucrat.” Often such measures do lead to long-term budgetary increases in fact.

    But that’s so only with the background assumption that the original spending was “necessitated” by either some objective condition or politics. AFAICT, the greater the proportion of spending is earmarked, the harder it will be to justify overly high levels of spending in the long run. Otherwise, why not go to the opposite extreme and have just one annual appropriation into a slush fund, the details of whose spending will be worked out later?

  21. Let’s put it this way: Suppose all the NTU could dig up as wasteful appropriation was some vast, broad line item such as, oh, I don’t know, how about “children”? It’s for the children. You inquire as to the details of how the money will be spent for or on children, and learn that it’s one big grant, unspecified further, the details to be worked out. How could the NTU possibly object to any amount of money that’s literally for the children, and about which nobody knows any more?

    OTOH, consider the field day the NTU or CAGW has when they can find lots of little line items with details such as $3 million for spinach flavored lollipops. That’s much easier to attack, and might actually lead to spending cuts.

  22. Ooh, I just know that something good is gonna happen.
    And I don’t know when,
    But just saying it could even make it happen.

    I’m Porkbusting Daddy.

  23. “Earmarks are out of spending allocated but redirects them to the benefit of the individual politician.”

    Here’s an idea. Why don’t we just “unallocate” the money and return it to the taxpayers ?

  24. Too often we blame politicians for doing what their constituients ask of them. If voters really wanted a representative that made sure, on principle, that no Federal pork came their way then that’s the kind of representative they’d elect.

    That having been said, just because you like Ron Paul’s politics, don’t somehow forget that he’s a politician.

  25. Props to Flake for fighting the good fight, but as I’m sure he’d be the first to tell you, the earmark problem requires a systemic solution. Trying to pick them off one-by-one is shovelling against the tide.

  26. Funny to see the mood changing on earmarks, now that Ron Paul has been shown to vote for them, and the Democrats control Congress. Now they’re not so bad, because the money would be spent anyway.

    Doesn’t all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Bridge to Nowhere, and all of the energy spent pointing out that the island has only 50 inhabitants, etc etc etc, take as its assumption the fact that some bridge projects are better than others?

    I know how transportation engineers in public agencies make up their minds about which projects go to the top of the list. And I know how legislators from Single Member Districts make up their minds.

    “Faceless bureaucrats” – ohnoes! You know what? I want the guy who decides which bridge needs to get funded this year to be somebody who doesn’t care about getting his face on TV. He’s probably going to decide based on something a little more reasonable than “This is a chance to get people to like me.”

  27. The voters of the Sixth District of Arizona want to know: Jeff Flake or Jeff Betray Us?

  28. Funny to see the mood changing on earmarks, now that Ron Paul has been shown to vote for them, and the Democrats control Congress. Now they’re not so bad, because the money would be spent anyway.

    Goddam, joe, took the bitterly cynical words right off of my screen.

  29. Too often we blame politicians for doing what their constituients ask of them.

    Yeah, so?

  30. “…Flake was able to persuade a majority of his colleagues to vote against only one, a grant of $129,000 for the Mitchell County, N.C., Development Foundation to run the Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree project.”

    $#%&! Isn’t that just like politicians…attacking Christmas!

  31. Earmarks are a drop in the bucket in the federal budget. The real killer is entitlement spending (Medicare, SS), the obligations for which we’re racking up will make the Iraq war’s cost look like pocket change.

    I’d happily put up with a few $100,000 bridges to nowhere, rather than trillions in expanded Medicare coverage.

  32. Props to you, RC Dean.

    You have every partisan reason in the world to join the apologists, and it’s clear you didn’t waver for even a heartbeat.

    Good on ya for standing on principle.

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