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January 10, 2006

John Fund: GOP Must Get Serious On Pork Or Lose Power

If Republicans want to weather the Abramoff storm, they're going to have to be committed to reform, as they were supposed to be in the first place.

Getting out ahead on pork is as good a method as any:

It's fitting that Rep. Tom DeLay is returning to his seat on the Appropriations Committee now that he is gone for good as House majority leader. It was his years serving in that "favor factory" that gradually turned him into a purveyor of pork who last fall claimed there was no more budget fat to cut. His departure gives Republicans a chance to return to first principles. If they don't, they may face a political drubbing.

...

...

Nothing better illustrates the meltdown in spending restraint than earmarking, the process by which members secure special pork projects such as Alaska's infamous $223 million "bridge to nowhere." Pork is an inevitable product of political compromise, but earmarks are a particularly corrupt form. They are often last-minute additions to conference reports that were never considered in the original bills passed by either the House or Senate. They can thus avoid competitive bidding, performance standards or even disclosure of the direct recipient.

In 1998, Congress approved 1,850 earmarks just for transportation projects. Last year's transportation bill contained 6,371. Earmarks have become the corrupt currency by which bills like the ruinously expensive prescription drug entitlement are bought vote by vote. They inevitably result in some lower-priority projects being funded first, with potentially disastrous results. In Louisiana, the Army Corps of Engineers spent $1.9 billion between 2000 and 2005, more than 80% of which was earmarked. Less than 4% of the total was spent on protecting levees, while over a third of the money went to building a new lock on an underused canal. Then along came Hurricane Katrina.

...

The federal government is now 250 times as big in real terms as it was a century ago. If Republicans don't use Mr. DeLay's departure to restore their limited-government credentials, they will see their own voters rebel.

Read the whole thing. Rep. Jeff Flake and Sen. Tom Coburn propose some common sense reforms-- like subjecting earmarks to amendment (they weren't already?) and requiring those who offer earmarks to identify who requested the earmark and who benefits from it. (Again: this wasn't required already?)

Those two very simple reforms could go a long way towards cutting down on the problem. No one wants to have a montage-clip of them running during an election season introducing earmark after earmark requested by "the poor farmers at ADM."

More on the earmark-corruption connection at Instapundit, via a Tom Coburn staffer named Sean Davis.


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posted by Ace at 02:47 PM

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