Government Spending

Slightly Fewer Logs, Still Rolling

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By the Office of Management and Budget's count, spending bills approved by Congress for fiscal year 2008 included 11,737 earmarks totaling $16.9 billion, down from 13,491 earmarks totaling $18.9 billion in fiscal year 2005. That's a 13 percent drop in the number of earmarks and an 11 percent drop in earmark spending, far short of President Bush's official goal, which was to cut earmarks in half. The Democrats are still doing better in this respect than the Republicans did when they controlled Congress (though not by much), and Bush is in no position to give lectures on fiscal conservatism given his own profligacy. Quibbling over a few billion dollars in earmark spending seems strange for a president who, to pick one example, pushed a Medicare drug benefit that now accounts for almost a quarter of the program's $34 trillion long-term deficit.

Yet to the extent that pet projects help win passage of budget-busting abominations like the Medicare drug benefit, they represent a bigger fiscal problem than the numbers suggest. Earmark promises (and threats) reportedly played an important role in winning Republican votes for the Medicare expansion. Tellingly, The New York Times reports that Bush probably won't issue an executive order instructing agencies to ignore earmarks included in committee reports (as opposed to the legislative text), even though he would be on firm legal ground in doing so, because he does not want to upset members of Congress:

Congressional leaders of both parties, who are scheduled to meet on Tuesday with the president, said Mr. Bush would provoke a huge outcry on Capitol Hill if he ignored those earmarks.

Lawmakers, including the House Republican whip, Roy Blunt of Missouri, have cautioned the White House that a furor over earmarks could upend Mr. Bush's hopes for cooperation with Congress on other issues, including efforts to revive the economy.

Moreover, Republicans shudder at the possibility that a Democratic president might reject all their earmarks.

Earmarks help get things done in Washington, promoting bipartisan cooperation in Congress and cross-branch cooperation with the White House. Of all the reasons to oppose them, this may be the most important.

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  1. Earmarks in committee reports aren’t law. Ignore them and your Director’s phone and supervisor’s phone begin to ring with Congressional inquiries and threats to your job security. This also happens when you inform a member of congress that their committee report earmark must be competitively procured due to federal acquisition regulations. The law means nothing to them.

  2. It generally takes a new majority a little while to get the pork train fully up to speed, so I expect to see the Dems surpass the old Repub record for earmarks next session.

    Of the current serious contenders for President, does anyone think any of them are likely to exercise legitimate executive authority to ignore them?

  3. Yet to the extent that pet projects help win passage of budget-busting abominations like the Medicare drug benefit, they represent a bigger fiscal problem than the numbers suggest.

    If you help me rob that bank, I’ll let you have the pretty silver dollars.

  4. That Bush is a real spineless scumbag and a putz. All he gives a shit about is himself and fuck the taxpayer and fuck and sodomize the supporters who voted for him.
    Combine this with his support of the Washington DC gun ban, and the minimum wage increase and the prescription bill and you realize what a selfish, dumb, YES DUMB, spineless person he is.
    He doesn’t give a shit about anything else except himself.
    I voted for Bush twice, and giving the same choices I would do it again.
    But my God, such douche bags we have for candidates, both Republican and Democrat.
    Democracy is worst form of government except for all the others, but still, we have to do better.

    PS Excuse the language but you cannot honsetly talk about Bush without use explictives.

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