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The Trouble With Earmarks

The attention to earmarks that has been paid in this campaign highlights the hypocritical nature of the American electorate. We decry “the other guy’s” earmarks. When our guy is bringing back the fat, we praise him. When the other guy is doing it, we vilify him. It’s one of the odd ironies of our political system.

The fact is, we judge our elected officials by what they do for their state. The jobs they bring home, the scientific research centers located in our towns, the military bases, the bridges, etc. When someone is good at attracting that investment in their home state, we call them effective. If they fail at bringing federal dollars back home, we call them ineffective.

We hire politician’s to do a job where the goal is to get stuff for their state. We give them the power – through the nation’s checkbook – to get that stuff. Then, we demand that they not do their job. It’s ridiculous.

If earmarks are evil, and we want to get rid of them, then we need to fundamentally change the role of the elected official. We cannot support a system where their election depends on their ability to deliver for the people, and then blame them for delivering.

Banning earmarks outright would take more political will than Congress has ever had. It’s like challenging them to put down their machine gun and walk willingly into a knife fight. They know they have the advantage over their would-be rivals. As long as they bring back the pork, they don’t have to find a real job.

Why would they want to give up such a powerful tool?

Written by Michael Turk