Government Spending

When We Said We Were Going to Ban Earmarks, You Didn't Think We Were Going to Ban Earmarks, Did You?


I want earmarks to be thiiiiiis big

When congressional Republicans backed a two-year earmark moratorium in a wave of post-election enthusiasm, apparently they didn't understand that banning earmarks would entail not having any more earmarks. Now—after failing to drag Democrats into their porkless hell—they're freaking out.

After agreeing to kill earmarks, some of the most conservative GOP lawmakers are already starting to ask themselves: What have we done?…

So some Republicans are discussing exemptions to the earmark ban, allowing transportation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and water projects….

The issue has popped up most frequently at the Conservative Opportunity Society, the caucus founded by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) in the early 1980s. During their Wednesday morning meeting last week, caucus members had a long discussion about how the Republican Party could redefine "member-directed spending," as earmarks are formally called on the Hill.

Always intrepid, conservative Republicans are shrugging off the angry ghost of Newt and getting into the dirty business of redefining the word earmark in order to keep the cash flowing:

Conservatives like Roe, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Iowa Rep. Steve King are among those trying to figure out a longer-term, sustainable way to get money back to projects in their districts.

"This isn't trying to be too cute by half of what is an earmark and what isn't," Bachmann told POLITICO on Wednesday. "But we have to address the issue of how are we going to fund transportation projects across the country?"

Here's a thought: How about we fund interstate highways from the federal Highway Trust Fund, and let state and localities do the rest?

The coming reign of the Prince of Pork over the House Appropriations Committee isn't encouraging either.

NEXT: Reasoners on the Interwebs: Columnist Veronique de Rugy Discusses Debt, Entitlement, & More on Bloomberg

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  1. Gee, what a shock.

  2. Here’s a thought: How about we fund interstate highways from the federal Highway Trust Fund, and let state and localities do the rest?

    What, what? Bring back federalism? What’s next, bring back slavery? You neo-confederate, you!

    [Channeling Lawrence O’Donnell]

    1. I could have sworn that was an Ed Schultz invasion.

      1. O’Donnell and Schultz both drink from the same furry cup of statism.

        1. Rachel Maddow???

          1. Dude, I was eating.

    2. That’s craziness. So what, we’re just supposed to make block grants to the states and assume that Governor’s and State legislatures would be able to determine what projects and repairs would be beneficial to the state? How can some lowly Governor have greater wisdom as to the needs of their state than a member of the United States congress? Everyone knows that with out a centrally planned authority we would all still be wearing animal pelts, using stone tools and reproducing with our siblings.

      1. “…Governor have greater wisdom as to the needs of their…”

        Try: needs of HIS
        or: needs of HER
        or: needs of HIS or HER

        Perhaps you might enjoy a refresher course in noun-pronoun agreement.

        English. It’s your language. Use it.

        1. English. It’s your language. Use it.

          That’s a sentence fragment.

  3. Disaffiliating from any political party is most liberating when you see shit like this.

    1. Amen. Amen.

  4. Pretty much sums up my reaction. Even gridlock is incapable of stopping the spending. Can we please get a viable legitimate third-party ASAP?

    1. Isn’t any new party going to be warped by whatever godforsaken mind disease is rampant in D.C.? Some other kind of solution is needed; I’m not sure what it would be.

      1. I think the solution is shotguns. At least that’s how they take down mindless zombies in the movies.

      2. Mininukes and supermutants.

        1. Mininuke and the supermutants is what I named my junk, coincidentally. And somehow, someway, my junk may be the solution.

    2. There’s a problem with this strategy.

      If you want a party of the right (say, to be truly fiscally conservative), then you’ll split the GOP and elect Democrats (who are less fiscally responsible).

      If you want a party of of the left (to be true to civil liberties), you’ll split the Democrats and get Republicans (who will just make PATRIOT and the drug war even stronger).

      This is called Duverger’s Law.

      One way to get around it is to run a candidate to flank the other guy. In 2010, Mass. Democratic Governor Deval Patrick was helped out enormously by the “independent” former state treasurer, Tim Cahill, who ran to the right of the Republican candidate Charlie Baker.

      Final election outcome:

      Patrick (D) – 50
      Baker (R) – 40
      Cahill (Ind) – 10

      1. ach, that was supposed to be a reply to Mike Laursen

      2. Dammit, I fucked up the link. Because I am a moron. An undercaffeinated moron.'s_law

  5. It’s very simple. If they get too cute they get wrecked in the primary and their political career is over. And believe it that they will be expelled from the caucus and possibly the party itself if they get even moar cute by running as write ins.

    1. I hope you’re right. The evidence is not particularly strong, but 2010 was eye-opening for me with regard to how much out-of-district/state money could be marshalled by the Internet. If someone put together a top 10 list of porkers from each party, and kept the US political internet pissed off about them, primary challengers could probably raise enough money and press awareness to win a couple.

  6. C’mon. A month after an election that was an unmistakable mandate to reduce the deficit, our Congress adds a trillion dollars to the deficit with their stealth stimulus tax bill.

    Does anyone seriously think they are going to do without earmarks?

    Fiscapocalypse no longer slouches toward center stage. It just hopped a bullet train.

    1. A federally funded bullet train (to Modesto)

      1. If we don’t build high-speed rail, we’ll be just like Somalia!

    2. stealth stimulus tax bill.

      RC, can you elaborate?

      1. tax cuts without spending cuts == stimulus bill

        1. But no taxes are actually being cut. It’s a tax status quo.

          1. 2% payroll tax cut — your FICA does down 2% — that’s actually a big deal that effects everyone.

            1. The payroll cut is temporary and is offset by an expiring tax credit. The bill also brings back the estate tax.

              1. Yes the payroll tax cut is temporary — hence, “stealth” stimulus.

            2. Ah, didn’t hear about that little gem.

              I’m all for that. Maybe it will bring about the collapse of that ponzi scheme a bit faster.

          2. That’s not a marginal tax rate decrease. That’s 2% of everything you make up to the ceiling.

          3. In governmentese, anything that is less than the most that anyone wants to spend in the future is a spending cut.

      2. RC, can you elaborate?

        Sure. The biggest chunks of the trillion dollars are:

        (1) Extension of the tax breaks in the original stimulus bill, and

        (2) The 2% payroll tax holiday, and

        (3) The special expensing of business investments.

        Those are pure stimulus.

        Nothing in that bill was offset by any spending cuts. Spending will continue completely unabated under the continuing resolution just passed. Every nickel not collected in taxes under the tax bill will have to be borrowed.

    3. Obvously, only the George Costanza theory of “do the opposite” can now possibly work.
      ‘I pledge to spend until I deforest the planet with newly printed money, on worthy investments in monkey colleges, fur sinks, and a program of insulating houses with 100 dollar bills!’

  7. But… but… they said they were going to be different! They were really serious about cutting spending this time! I can’t believe I was lied to!

    (seriously, if anyone is surprised by this…)

    1. You weren’t paying attention:
      they said they were really, really, really really, really really, really really, really, really, really really, really really, really, really, different.
      There, did you see it? the 3rd, 5th, and 13th reallys didn’t have commas after them, as opposed to typically just the 4th and 7th.

  8. In defense of Congressional Republicans, they really want to use earmarks.

  9. Any of the resident H&R Red Team want to try and defend this? I remember leading up to the election how some of them were saying third party voters were as bad as Team Blue because our only chance to stop runaway spending was to get Team Red back in power.

    Oh, and where are the morning links?

    1. When Michelle Bachman (founder of the Tea Party Caucus!!) is mentioned in the article, the fiscal hawks just took a shotgun blast to the face. And second on the where are the links.

      1. The Tea Party Caucus took a shotgun blast to the face when the founder of the tea party movement didnt join it.

    2. I seem to recall one of the Red Teamers bitching about how libertarians need to set aside their differences on social conservatism and vote for people like Bachmann because they represent the face of fiscal conservatism. L O fucking L.

      1. +1
        I remember that too

      2. Several.

    3. Yes, where are the Morning Links? Perhaps the person in charge today was Wiki-attacked.

    4. Montani: I still think that she’s hot. Does that count?

  10. “But we have to address the issue of how are we going to fund transportation projects across the country?”

    First, Ray LaHood must be publicly executed.

    Then, the Transportation Dept budget should be directed to projects based on strict cost-benefit analysis.

  11. What — did anyone really believe the Republicans would change anything?

    The fact is, even if libertarians were elected, there’d be pork. It’s just endemic.

    Which is why it’s no surprise that Ron Paul is one of the biggest porkers out there.

  12. Speaking of desperately needed transportation projects, there’s this:

    The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco and the Associated Professionals and Contractors, an alliance of minority businesses, lodged a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation, alleging that the California High-Speed Rail Authority has violated the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    They contend that the project’s effort to involve minority companies has been poor and that only about 12 minority-owned firms out of 134 prime contractors and subcontractors have shared in the authority’s 10 largest contracts so far. The complaint alleges that many of the minority businesses were hired for small amounts, such as $100,000 for consulting work related to a $75-million contract.

  13. So where is John?

    1. Honing his rationalizations. But, sadly, still not spell-checking them.

    2. He and Suki have taken the Morning Links to their secret lair where they are performing unspeakable acts on them.

      1. They’re forcing them to watch Keith Olbermann?

    3. I am right here. What do you want me to say? It is only the “John” that lives inside your head who ever said that Congress Creatures of either persuasion wouldn’t steal when given the chance.

      The real one never made any promises about this Congress other than it would stop Obama from doing further damage.

  14. They’re scared that Democrats will get earmarks and they won’t, and that it will put them at a disadvantage when election time rolls around. Both in things they can brag about to voters, and fund raising. Earmarks equal patronage, which is why getting rid of earmarks is about more than just stopping inefficient spending.

    The only way to counter this is to make earmarks politically dangerous. Which seems to be the case at the moment, otherwise the ban would never have been even considered in the first place. What they are doing now is testing that resolve, to see how far it goes.

    The fact is, you’re never going to get the “right people” in charge. Libertarians of all people should understand that. A third party will not do it, unfortunately. In fact, a third party is likely to become beholden to a small group of special interests. That’s what happens in most multi-party systems.

    Given that you can’t change the politicians, then the goal has to be to change their incentives. As long as their re-election chances are best with earmarks and more spending, that’s what they will do. If earmarks and out of control spending are vote killers, they won’t do it.

    1. Exactly right. It is not an R or a D problem, it is a politician problem. And ultimately, if the American people are not willing to punish these people for doing this, then they really don’t care too much about earmarks do they? And if the electorate doesn’t care, how can it complain when it happens?

      1. It’s not a politician problem. It is a politics problem. Or more accurately, the ease at which the principles of the two major parties get thrown out the window for political expediency.

        It’s easy to say libertarians would end up doing the same thing (throw out our principles for reelection/power), but I find it hard to believe. Were that the case, we would have sold out to the SoCons before Team Red took over the Tea Party movement, and we’d actually have quite a few voices in the next Congress.

        We didn’t do that because we tend to be more principled than the whores in the two major parties. I can’t help but think it keeps us from becoming more of a force, but I may be a bit naive. I can say this and be proud, though. I’d rather have passed up on my opportunity for power if I can still look my kids in the eye and say I kept my principles. I doubt that there are a dozen elected officials in Washington who could honestly say the same thing.

        1. Where is the line between selling out and being reasonable and compromising? First I don’t see any evidence that the so cons have taken over the Tea Party. What I see in the Tea Party is a movement that includes so cons. And that fact along caused movement libertarians to go “eek” and run off.

          No single set of policies or values is going to carry even a large minority of the country. Unless you are willing and able to just rule by the gun, you have to be willing to respect other people’s views and compromise on things. If you are not willing to do that you end up as a fringe movement full of budding Casandras more interested in emotional satisfaction that real success.

          1. Where is the line between selling out and being reasonable and compromising?

            Compromise is when the other people will move at least part way toward you (and you move part way towards them). So, when the either of the two parties who want to spend 25% of GDP are willing to cut back to 15%, that would be a compromise (I, as a libertarian, would prefer something under 5% at least).

            That is a compromise that I will gladly accept.

            It isnt the libertarians that arent willing to compromise. We are more than willing to move half way on spending.

          2. First I don’t see any evidence that the so cons have taken over the Tea Party.

            Eh, not so sure about this one. The faces of the movement are Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman. If you think they’re not social conservatives then there is seriously something wrong with you. Throw in Rick Santorum and Alan Keyes and you may as well call them the 700 club.

            And, besides Rand Paul, can you name any socially libertarian Tea Partiers? I’m blanking on this one. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any, but they seem to be few & far between.

            1. List the positions Palin has taken that causes you to describe her as a social con? She has also said some pretty tolerant things about marijuana, so anything you produce has to be balanced with that.

              And Rand Paul is a Senator elect. I would say he is a pretty big deal in the movement. A much bigger deal than Bachman. You just focus on Bachman because she confirms your stereotypes.

              1. I wish people like John would fly on airplanes built under the premise of mathematic compromise. I seem to remember an education system where 2+2 did not have to equal 4. Yah and a state got sued for it too. Somethings in the universe are absolute. Like theft, murder, oppression, corruption. Things Governments throughout history have specialized in.

                1. yeah because government and human interaction and justice can be reduced to mathematical certainty. The answers are self evident and easy.

                  Seriously Cruz, you don’t really mean what you are writing. You can’t.

              2. Too easy to destroy your argument.

                Sarah Palin on gay marriage –

                “Q: Do you support, as they do in Alaska, granting same-sex benefits to couples? Would you support expanding that beyond Alaska to the rest of the nation?

                PALIN: Well, not if it goes closer and closer towards redefining the traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman. And unfortunately that’s sometimes where those steps lead. I don’t support defining marriage as anything but between one man and one woman, and I think through nuances we can go round and round about what that actually means. ”

                Sarah Palin on marijuana – “I’m not for the legalization of pot,” said Palin.

                I’m not even going to waste my time posting a quote about her position on abortion.

                As far as “focusing” on Bachmann, well, she founded the Tea Party caucus. I can’t see how you can argue how she is not at least one of the faces of the tea party. I know, you want to try and downplay this because it ruins your argument. I can’t say I blame you.

                I notice you didn’t name any other socially liberterian Tea Party members. Any reason for this?

      2. Americans like earmarks. I’ve got a beach replenishment, two fire halls, and a possible VA hospital. Voters suck that shit up.

  15. Squirrels, what have you done with the names on this thread? Put them back! Bad rodent, no acorn.

    1. That’s better.

  16. Congressional Black Caucus and GOP Poised to Kill Office of Congressional Ethics?…..thics.aspx

    When those two groups agree on something, it’s gotta be bad.

    1. Is this the office where they come up with new and more innovative methods of violating congressional pages ethics without getting caught?

      1. Fat lot of good it does to have it. Wesley Snipes has to do time in prison, while Charlie Rangel gets off with a mere wrist-slap.

        1. He should have run for congress. Hell he still could. It’s not too late Wesley!

          1. He’d need a sex scandal to go along with the tax problems. Then, he’d be a sure thing for a Dem candidacy.

  17. As long as their re-election chances are best with earmarks and more spending, that’s what they will do. If earmarks and out of control spending are vote killers, they won’t do it.

    This is one thing a bit scary about term limits: If congresscreatures *know* they won’t be re-elected, there may be a tendency to mad duck it all the way to hell. I believe Obama has already gone public with such a sentiment.

    1. Plus it seems even newcomers go from zero to beltway before their first term is up.

      If only we had some sort of document with rules that limited the behavior of Congress…

  18. File this under “Not surprising at all”.

  19. If you think eliminating earmarks will have a positive effect on pork spending, I’ve got some great oceanside property in Denver that I’ll sell to you for cheap.

    Eliminating earmarks just changes who is in charge of buying the pork. Someone is still going to fund this crap, but without earmarks we’re not going to know who did it. We might not even be able to learn about the pork projects’ existence any more.

  20. Thought excercise:
    Pay every congressman a salary of $100 million a year. Out of that $100 mill they have to fund their own campaigns and any earmarks. Guess how many earmarks would be approved?

    1. I like that idea. We can’t stop them from stealing. I don’t care who we elect. So why not just pay them protection money. If the government runs a surplus, they get to split 10% of it amongst themselves. But any increase in the tax rate is taken out of their cut. How long do you think we would have a budget deficit and spending problem then?

      1. Nah. They tried that in NJ. Pay the politicians high salaries so they won’t need to take bribes. I’ve got a county solicitor that makes over $120,000/year, and a fat pension. He’s pushing a county funded Chapel, at the Veteran’s graveyard, or something.

        However, in NH, state legislators only make $100/year helping ensure the existence of a citizen legislature committed to public service. It seems to work, there.

    2. Thomas Sowell has been saying for years that we should pay Congresscritters millions per year, maybe even $10 million a year, which would mean that it would be very difficult to influence them with outside money. Though I think there would still be the issue of campaign funding. I like the idea of that combined with financial incentives to control spending even better, though.

      1. Anyone who gets themselves elected to congress can be influenced by outside money, no matter how much money they already have.

  21. I keep hearing about this great Fiscapocalypse that is supposed to happen. It reminds of this line in Pink Floyd at Pompei when Roger Waters says something like, “when the great economic colapse happens, I don’t think Rock n Roll will go first.” I get the sense that in the minds of many, the idea that a great Fiscapocalypse is going to happen, is a very old idea.

    Well get on with it so I can enjoy the schadenfruede and, (oh how god I hope) hopefully, watching politicians being hunted down.

  22. It was a political stunt to appease the plebs. Either way it has no significant impact.

  23. “I want earmarks a dildo thiiiiiis big, [so I can fuck the American people out of their hard earned money].”

  24. “When We Said We Were Going to Ban Earmarks, You Didn’t Think We Were Going to Ban Earmarks, Did You?”

    No, no I didn’t.

  25. Here’s a thought: How about we fund interstate highways from the federal Highway Trust Fund, and let state and localities do the rest?

    Who is “we”?

    Reason? is advocating taxing citizens, having the money go to Washington, then putting the money back in a trust fund for states and locals to use. Why not cut the middle man and not tax in the first place so the money never leaves the state?

    1. No, I think Reason is simply suggesting something that Republicans could/would actually do.

    2. The reason they call them “interstate” highways is because they run between states. The idea is that the federal government should fund federal highways and state and local governments should fund state and local highways and roads.

  26. The only sure way to control federal spending is to reimpose the original constitutional limits on federal power through constitutional amendments. See

  27. Conservatives like Roe, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Iowa Rep. Steve King are among those trying to figure out a longer-term, sustainable way to get money back to projects in their districts.

    The purpose of earmarks isn’t just to fund projects. It’s to fund projects without having to propose a bill and, in open debate, justify spending federal money on a local project.

    If all the representatives wanted to do was “to figure out a longer-term, sustainable way to get money back to projects,” the reasonable way to do it is with the normal appropriation process.

    But good luck with that.

  28. Anybody who even remotely entertained the notion that Republicans were different than the Dems needs to turn in there voter card.

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