July 18, 2007

GOP Still Hasn't Learned On Pork

During the 110th Congress, critics of the Democrats have had plenty of material with which to work, especially on earmarks. Every week, it seems, another story about Democratic earmarks appears, including today on a mystery earmark that cost American taxpayers the equivalent of 40 years salary for an average American family. That doesn't mean that every Republican has learned their lesson on spending -- and in one case, a GOP Congressman seems determined to learn the wrong lesson.

First, though, let's check in with David Harsanyi of the Denver Post and the author of an upcoming book, Nanny State, about government overreach. He wrote a column criticizing Tom Tancredo for pushing earmarks that totalled over $200 million, and Tancredo objected:

David Harsanyi pointed out that I am attempting to obtain more than $200 million in federal funding for “pet projects” this year. What he neglected to mention is that some $180 million of that money would fund just three projects: completion of the voter-approved T-REX project ($80 million), work on the voter-approved West Corridor light-rail line ($40 million) and a new Denver-area Veterans Affairs hospital ($60 million).

I was also quite puzzled by Harsanyi’s implication that I somehow object to making this information (which is posted on my website) available to the public. After all, for the last several years I have often attempted to publicize it whenever I’ve helped to obtain funding for a local transportation, defense or conservation initiative. And while The Post rarely found such items newsworthy enough to report on in the past, we should all be pleased that this appears to be changing.

Harsanyi responds by asking why federal dollars should be spent on state projects:

I’m quite puzzled myself. First of all, there was no implication in the column that Tancredo objected to releasing his earmark requests — other than he had never released them before. And though I “neglected to mention” that $180 million of the over $200 million he asked for were to fund just three local projects, I’m not sure that fact makes his case for pork any stronger. If folks in Maryland are going to fund local Denver transportation then what stops Colorado money from funding Byrd Country or Bridges to Nowhere?

Indeed. In fact, that's the crux of the problem with pork. It pushes the federal government into tasks in which it should have no stake at all. It also takes money from taxpayers in one state and uses it to fund local and state projects elsewhere, where those taxpayers have no control over the expenditure or the projects. Why not collect less federal tax money and allow each state to fund and run their own projects?

At least Tancredo understands the objections to earmarks, even if he's not willing to give them up for his own grip on power. The Politico notes an exchange between House Republicans that shows how much work we still have ahead of us in educating our elected representatives:

Rep. Don Young attacked his fellow Republicans on the House floor Wednesday, as he defended education funds allocated to his home-state of Alaska.

"You want my money, my money," Young stridently declared before warning conservatives that, "Those who bite me will be bitten back."

Er, whose money?

During his brief tirade Wednesday, Young suggested Republicans lost their majority because Scott Garrett, whom he did not specifically name, and others had challenged spending during the GOP's tenure. He also had disparaging things to say about the great state of New Jersey - home to The Sopranos and Bon Jovi.

You want to know how out of touch Don Young is? He thinks the GOP lost the midterms because Republicans were too critical of spending. Apparently, Don Young of Alaska thinks that Americans send politicians to Washington specifically to pork up the budget and to assume ownership of our tax money.

Thankfully, most Republicans learned a different lesson in 2006. Garrett got a standing ovation later in the day at the Republican Study Committee meeting. He should get one from everyone who wants to bring an end to pork-barrel spending and the corruption it enables.

Oh, and Rep. Young? Bite me.


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Comments (9)

Posted by flenser | July 18, 2007 6:23 PM

At least Tancredo understands the objections to earmarks, even if he's not willing to give them up for his own grip on power.

This is more incoherent than usual. Tancredo's "grip on power" has nothing to do with what you refer to as earmarks. Supposedly one of the bad things about the big bad earmarks is that they are secret.

Harsanyi responds by asking why federal dollars should be spent on state projects:

How idiotic can you get? Perhaps in the libertarian fantasy world where we skip back in time to the 1920's the Feds won't be involved in state projects. Here in the real world they are intimately involved in every aspect of state spending, usually because both states and the Feds want it that way. Lets try to pretend we have some passing famiiarity with the real world, shall we?

This reads like Harsanyi trying to cover his butt after being caught out.

You are interested in ending corruption, Ed? The its time you took a look at the way businesses bribe politicans to ignore, bend, or break immigration law. There is far more money involved and far more genuine corruption there than in this idiotic "earmark" crusade", which appearently exists so that faux conservatives such as yourself can have some sort of fig leaf.

Posted by Jim C | July 18, 2007 6:25 PM

Oh, and Rep. Young? Bite me.

I second that opinion!!

Jim C

Posted by Jim C | July 18, 2007 6:34 PM


Speaking of the real world... here in the real world the Constitution doesn't give the Feds the power to be involved in state projects. As far as the states wanting it that way; that's also part of the problem. Both state and Federal government need to recognized that state projects are not the responsibility of the federal government. Also, I think the power aspect that they're referring to is that representatives get earmark money for special interests. Those special interests then donate to the representative's re-election campaign. Thus, the grip on power reference.

By the way, I don't really think it was neccessary to insult our host. It is possible to make a point without insulting people.

Jim C

Posted by docjim505 | July 18, 2007 8:02 PM

I echo Jim C's July 18, 2007 6:34 PM on all points.

The chief problem with earmarks is that they are a blatant abuse of the limited powers granted the Congress by the Constitution. To paraphrase Mr. Madison, I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that part of the Constitution that gives the Congress the authority to spend public funds on a light rail system. A VA Hospital could conceivably come under the army and navy clauses so I don't object too strongly to that.

But if we want to stop the Congress using OUR money to buy votes and payoff special interest groups, we've got to reign in ALL the earmarks, even the ones we like.

As to flenser's point about other types of corruption, I'm right there with you. Unfortunately, the same arguments can be made in favor of winking at immigration violations that are made in favor of winking at earmarks: everybody wants them, let's live in the real world, this is 2007 and not 1907, etc, etc, etc.

Cleaning house means cleaning ALL of it, not just the part of the mess that personally bothers us.

Posted by JC Pharr | July 18, 2007 8:42 PM

The light rail was probably part of a DOT bill, probably in the approriation back to the states of funds collected by the feds on motor vehicle fuels. What has happened over recent years is that, instead of DC saying 'Here's your share of the money, go spend it on what you think is important,' groups within a state get their DC representatives to say 'Here's your share, go spend it on projects x, y and z and then whatever is left, do as you see fit.'

The overall share remains the same but there is less flexibility in the spending.

Posted by Adjoran | July 18, 2007 11:37 PM

I'm as against excessive spending as the next fellow, especially when it is hidden from public scrutiny. However, I cannot fathom how people can claim this is "unconstitutional" in any way. That is clearly not the case. If it is, of course, it should be a simple matter for those making the claim to prove it, as the Constitution provides a mechanism for "resolving disputes under this Constitution," doesn't it?

Those who reject that method as faulty don't REALLY support the Constitution, do they? Just their own peculiar and narrow interpretation of it . . . sort of like Stalin with the Soviet Constitution, right?

Posted by Jon | July 19, 2007 7:07 AM

“It also takes money from taxpayers in one state and uses it to fund local and state projects elsewhere, where those taxpayers have no control over the expenditure or the projects. Why not collect less federal tax money and allow each state to fund and run their own projects?”

Why stop at there, how about taxpayers in one county not having to pay for projects in another county or one city block paying for another city block…

Maybe it’s because our obligations as Americans goes beyond our own neighborhoods, cities, counties, or states.

Posted by MarkD | July 19, 2007 7:44 AM

Nobody is arguing that the states and cities do not have the obligation to support projects within their boundaries.

The issue is that I am being taxed to fund local projects in other states. Not only that, the request for my money is hidden from me.

I'd invite anyone who is OK with that to give me access to their bank account. I'm an honorable guy. I'll only take a little bit, and it will be for non-frivolous things, I promise.

Posted by Jon | July 19, 2007 11:33 AM

My point wasn’t that state and city governments have responsibilities outside their boundaries (though the more I think about it the more I believe they do), but that we as individual Americans do. Yes, I am a resident of a city and of a state but I’m also a citizen of this country and as such my obligations extend beyond city and state boundaries. Do I always agree with the uses ‘my’ federal money gets used for? Absolutely not, but I don’t always agree with where my state and local tax money goes either.