Before anyone asks, I have come up with an idea to bring back the good earmarks (because there are a few) and flush out the bad ones in a completely open manner, and you can read it here. I bring this up again because of Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), who is unique among conservative Republicans for his record on spending; the group Citizens Against Government Waste gives him only a dismal 23 percent approval rating, despite his otherwise reliable record on taxes. After some mildly refreshing candor on his part last week, it’s easy to see why.
Rogers’s idea was to end the Republican ban on earmarks for the sake of breaking congressional gridlock. That may seem odd to anyone who remembers how many times legislation has been stalled because of the presence of too many earmarks. His reasoning is that, with the ban broken, it would be easier to get specific votes in exchange for promises of federal funding for pet projects. This, says Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense (also not fans of earmarks), is a sign of desperation for a way to “grease the wheels” in Congress.
And how can you look at it any other way? Rogers is basically saying this:
OK, it’s obvious that a lot of our legislation can’t get bipartisan votes on their own merits. Let’s get the votes we need by making a whole bunch of offers they can’t refuse. It’ll get them more support in their own districts so they can get re-elected and we can keep doing it over and over again. Our bills will move faster than ever! And we won’t even have to spend that much time thinking about them!
Just one problem. The district support is coming from people with the money and the influence to make House members want to ask for earmarks. This does nothing to ensure that they’d be good for the district at large, much less the country.
I would go easier on Rogers’s remarks if he were willing to consider that small matter. Instead, he has exposed the House for that into it is devolving: a clearinghouse for personal political transactions, with decreasing regard for what would directly benefit voters instead of the members and their donors. He isn’t wrong to acknowledge that this is the flow. But shame on him for coming up with a new way to go with it instead of trying to challenge it.
As the first link in this column should have made clear, there’s a way to do that without keeping the occasional good earmark locked out. But you need to be willing to do the legwork to find out if one politically valuable House vote is worth it. Until Rogers is willing to do some real legwork instead of coming up with one laughable idea, I expect to hear no more about spending or efficiency from him.