Earmarks are an easy target, but take a closer look

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's popular to use earmarks as anti-Washington rhetoric, what with the "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska and other abuses, but a look at those included in the omnibus spending bill awaiting action now raises new questions for Nebraska.

Sen. Ben Nelson has drawn more than his share of criticism, but defends them as a way to make sure worthy projects are funded, and as a way for rural, less-populous areas to obtain government support that otherwise would go to big cities.

For their part, Nebraska's Republican delegation has used few or no earmarks -- Sen. Mike Johanns none, U.S. Rep. Lee Terry two for $1.5 million, U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith three for a total of $1.315 million and U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry with seven for $2.845 million, compared to Nelson's 53 for $62,249,440.

Besides being Nelson's hometown, McCook has a vital interest in the debate; his earmarks include $487,000 for the new McCook Community College Events Center.

But the list of colleges to benefit is extensive, chief among them the University of Nebraska, which stands to receive $40.666 million, far above that which will be received by universities in other midwestern states. All but about $900,000 of the money going to the University of Nebraska can be credited to Sen. Nelson.

As one knowledgeable observer noted, earmarks don't directly increase the appropriation, they only redirect parts of it to specific projects. Sen. Nelson noted that the difference between the omnibus spending bill which awaits action, and an earmark-free continuing resolution that would simply keep the government in operation is only 1.2 percent.

Earmarks are an easy target, yes, but what's the alternative? Appropriations should be made on merit, yes, but should that decision be left to nameless bureaucrats, or a system even more prone to under-the-table dealings?

One solution is massive cuts to federal spending, and that may be the only real solution.

But are we willing to pay the difference in local and state taxes or let worthy local projects and our institutions of higher education languish?

It's clear that something will have to be done to balance the national budget and even, eventually, pay down the national debt.

But until we have created an alternative to the current system and have generated the will to make the necessary changes, earmarks, or something like them, are unlikely to go away anytime soon.

More on earmarks is available on the website of the conservative think-tank, the Platte Institute.

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  • 1 percent of 1.3 Trillion is 13 Billion dollars so I'd hardly describe it as "only" 1.2 percent. Money that would otherwise go to bigger cities? Like the $40 million to the University of Nebraska? There's a lot more money for bigger cities in Senator Nelson's earmarks than there are for rural areas so the "rural area" argument is out the window. They simply give money to as many people as they can get away with by way of increasing the national debt.

    When talking about eliminating earmarks, nobody is talking about spending it on other projects, they look at it as a way to reduce spending. So, that money wouldn't go to big cities as the Senator would like you to believe, it'd go towards reducing the debt. I wonder what he tells the people in Lincoln and Omaha? Oh yeah, it'd go to cities bigger than Lincoln and Omaha, same song just a different verse. Problem is that earmarks from all the other Senators do go to larger cities and without earmarks, those bigger cities wouldn't receive those earmarks and the American people would have saved over $13 Billion.

    -- Posted by McCook1 on Thu, Dec 16, 2010, at 3:49 PM
  • If a person only views one side of the coin, then they have only seen one side of the coin. Earmarks, are nothing more than a way to obtain financing for a project that has no way of being considered on its own merits, and must attach to another, more meritorious need. When every hand in the room is grabbing from the Cookie-jar, it does not take long before the jar is not only empty, but very broken, as is the case, in my opinion, of what is going on in Washington, now.

    We have taken our ability to 'grab' from the jar, so far, our Grandchildren, and probably our Great-Grandchildren, will not be able to pay for our cookies.

    Once upon a time, this nation was founded so people could be free enough to 'Plan' for their future, but through excessive legal spending, and cookie-jar 'Earmarks' (once called 'PORK'), we are spending money not available, with no likelihood of being available, our of our children's pockets.

    THAT, in my opinion, does not justify our worthiness of being called Good Americans, Good Parents, Good for Anything, and worst of all: Good Christians.

    We seem to have become Ennui (caring about nothing except that food and clothing are always available, no matter the price).

    -- Posted by Navyblue on Thu, Dec 16, 2010, at 3:55 PM
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