Most Conservatives believe earmarks go hand in hand with pork and excessive spending and therefore, earmarks are anti-conservative. We need to re-examine this position. While we must fight excessive Federal spending, the use (and even demand) of earmarks in spending bills can go a long way towards holding the current Democratic controlled Congress responsible for their spending spree. Sen. McCain has been quoted as saying that “earmarks are the gateway to corruption.” Note to Sen. McCain: corruption doesn’t need a gateway. It’s already a full-blown disease infecting all levels of government.
With an earmarked item we can be partially assured of where the money will be spent. There is at least a modicum of transparency in play with earmarks. The lack of earmarks should terrify true conservatives. Without earmarks, varied agencies receiving funds are forced by Congress to create “spending plans.” Once the bill is passed Congress requires that these agencies come to them with a plan for how the funds will be spent. Congress can reject the plans in perpetuum, or until the agency gets it right. The varied agencies know the priorities of the appropriators and therefore they try and get the spending to line up with the wants of the appropriators so that there funds will be expedited. Do you really want people who think like Pelosi, Reid, and Frank guiding spending without being held accountable for specifics?
Conservatives who fight earmarks actually provide cover for individuals who misuse funds. The money in the bill has to go somewhere and it will be used. Isn’t it better to know precisely where our money is being spent? We must fight excessive spending. I repeat, we must fight excessive spending, but when we lose that battle (as we did with the recent stimulus package), we must ensure the money is spent wisely, not merely to push a liberal agenda. One way to ensure responsible spending is to force as much money as possible into earmarks, so that there is a public accounting of the direction of the funds. This way the liberal controlled Congress to be held somewhat responsible for spending decisions.
Case in point: the $4 billion included in the stimulus package for Community Redevelopment Programs. How much of this money is going to find itself in the hands of ACORN? It’s virtually impossible for us to know. If we demand earmarks in future spending bills then we can attempt to hold the Legislature accountable for their actions. Earmarks also provide a golden opportunity for our candidates in 2010 and 2012 to strike directly at their opponents’ decisions, because we will have a line by line accounting of where they spent the public’s money. President Obama has promised that there will be no earmarks in the stimulus. This is disconcerting. The money will be spent, of this we can be certain. Without earmarks, that’s all that can be certain.