I received an e-mail newsletter from Rep. Hensarling the other day in which he bemoans “earmarks” — read as pork for a particular constituency back home. Kudos to our congressman.
“In 2006, Congress spent $29 billion on earmarks, individual spending requests inserted into spending bills by individual lawmakers that benefit a very specific, limited number of people. $29 billion is more than the Department of Veterans Affairs spent on both medical research and services in 2006. That is also enough money to fund the monthly Social Security benefits of over 34.5 million Texas seniors. It is obvious that Congress’ priorities are out of line,” Rep. Hensarling writes.
“What makes the situation even worse is that Washington has a budget deficit. That means that all of the money we waste on earmarks is coming out of the Social Security Trust Fund. This is money that millions of Americans are counting on for their retirement, and Congress is using it to fund “Bridges to Nowhere” in Alaska and other equally ridiculous pork barrel spending projects.”
My question is this: Americans have been complaining about pork barrel spending for as long as I can remember, but why does nothing ever get done about this in Congress? Answers: First, we voters have not exerted enough pressure in regard to this issue. Second, too many well-connected citizens keep pushing for their personal earmark favorites.
I don’t give our congressmen and senators a free pass on this, but generally they do what they think we want, which is not always the same as what we say we want. I praise Rep. Hensarling for this position. Of course I do have a question for the congressman: Have you been putting forth any earmarks yourself?
The congressman sets forth his support of a line-item veto in order to help combat earmarks. I support that, as well; but I do have a concern that a president will use that power to reward his friends (by not using a line-item veto on their projects) and punish his enemies (by slashing their projects).