Earmarks -- Some Questions for Stan

Wed, 11 Mar 2009 02:52:21 +0000

Back from spring break, I'm curious about Stan's latest post about earmarks, and in particular, two passages from a column last year:

Another of my budget friends insists that eliminating earmarks will eventually lead to lower spending because if Representatives and Senators can’t provide funds for their districts and states, there will be fewer items in these bills for their constituents and that will make them less likely to be supported. I’m skeptical about that argument: Even if there isn’t an earmark, there is still something in most appropriations for almost everyone.

This passage acknowledges the possibility of earmarks providing incentives to expand total appropriations and downplays it. The problem, according to Stan, is that "there is still something in most appropriations for almost everyone." The question is whether further progress against that tendency could be made if the cover of earmarks were taken away. What do you say, Stan?

Another passage that is troubling is the following:

It makes no sense to think that a bureaucracy headed by an appointee who was selected to implement the president’s agenda will do something different than what the administration wants ... or that the White House would allow it. The decision about how and where the funds will be spent will be just as political as if it was made for an individual Member of Congress.

This is an example of one of my great frustrations with the way the Executive branch has grown and the Legislative branch has shrunk over time. Why should these bureaucrats be appointed by the President as opposed to the Congress? The Congress should cede implementation to the federal bureaucracy. But it should not cede this much decision-making -- the "how and where" choices. It lessens both transparency and accountability.