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Posts Tagged ‘earmarks’

As the budget makes its way through Congress we now hear the annual outcry from certain politicians about the great evil of Congressional earmarks.  Senator John McCain could probably be called the champion of the crusade to eliminate earmarks.  Hey John, I have an idea.  Why don’t we just eliminate the Senate? Or even better, maybe just eliminate the Senate seats from Arizona? Would that work for you?

The earmark is an old tradition in our governmental process and it serves a good purpose: it represents the voice of the people via their elected representatives in Congress.  Each year our government needs to create a budget for the following year.  Guess who has that responsibility? The President  – not the Congress. But the President doesn’t actually draw up the budget, neither do his White House staff.  They don’t have the time or resources for that.  The initial cut at a budget is delegated to the army of civil servants that work in our many governmental agencies. Basically a request goes out from the President for inputs into the next year’s budget. The request goes to the Department of Defense then to the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.  The request goes to the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, and on and on.  Every department gets to send in their wish list to the President for both continuing and new funding.  This is all done by the employees of these departments who are all civil servants, i.e. government employees.  If you ask any one of these government employees who they work for they will immediately say they work for the President – and they do.  Some will tell you that they are the government.  No, really, some of them actually think like that.  Some of these people don’t know the difference between being a government employee and being the government itself.  Does all this sound a little inbred?  You bet it does.

Here’s where Congress comes in.  They get to approve and modify the budget. John McCain, a staunch supporter of the military “chain of command” school of thinking, believes that the only appropriate action for Congress to take is to approve or disapprove the President’s budget. He doesn’t go for that modification thing at all.  After all, John McCain, old soldier that he is, knows full well that the President is the Commander in Chief – so why should anyone else have a say in the budget?  Because we are not a dictatorship, John; that’s why.  Our elected Representatives and Senators are sent to Congress to listen to our local needs and to represent those local needs in Congress – if they don’t do that then who needs them?  That is how our government works and any senator worth his salary should know that.

One way our representatives represent us is by adding items to the budget that the President’s civil servants neglected to include.  These additions that correct the errors and omissions of the President’s budget are called earmarks.  Senataor McCain wants them all banned forever and ever.

For example, Senator McCain recently ridiculed an earmark for North Carolina for “beaver management”. McCain sent out a tweet to his followers (McCain actually knows how to send a tweet? He knows about computers and text messages?) saying, “How does one manage a beaver?”  I can just hear him chuckling now.  Pretty funny – like herding cats, I guess.  Right, Johnny. In actuality, if you bothered to check, Johnny, you would find that you manage them by trapping them and by blowing up their dams.  Why? Because if you don’t you get severe flooding of rivers and streams that causes lots of property damage and the loss of millions and millions of dollars, because the beaver population tends to get too large.  That’s why.  And that’s why earmarks are a necessary part of the process.  The civil servants of this country do not represent us or our interests.  They don’t even know about our needs or interests, and neither, it seems, does John McCain.

The real problem with the earmark process, if John McCain would like to know, is when lobbyists get involved in the process.  Then money starts to change hands and unnecessary earmarks make their way into the budget and a few select companies make a lot of money doing senseless things.  However, this is really a problem with lobbying, not earmarks.  The real problem is that lobbying also affects the President’s budget too.  You know all those civil servants who write up the budget inputs? Lobbyists talk to them.  They also talk to the generals and the admirals. They talk to anyone who has the power to control spending. The result is that the President’s budget is as equally likely to be contaminated with foolish projects as are the Congressional earmarks.  The real problem is not earmarks.  The real problem, which no one seems to complain about, is the lobbyists.  Funny thing though, you never hear McCain complain about lobbyists, do you?  Hmmm, I wonder why?

If you want to learn more about McCain’s relationship with lobbyists, click here.

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