The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns earmarks – the practice of Congress to funnel tax dollars to special interests. After a ten-year-long ban, earmarks may be coming back. According to Matthew Dickerson at The Daily Signal, earmarks may return under the name of “community project funding.”
Despite conservative opposition to “the practice of earmarking federal funds for special interests,” the practice increased exponentially. Dickerson stated that “the number of earmarks each year increased by 282% to nearly 16,000” between 1994 and 2011. The American people did not approve of the practice.
The American people have long opposed earmarks. A 2006 Wall Street Journal poll showed that people listed “prohibiting members of Congress from directing federal funds to specific projects benefiting only certain constituents” as their top priority for Congress.
A 2010 CNN poll showed that 79% of respondents described earmarks as “not acceptable.” This included 71% of Democrats and 89% of Republicans. A 2016 poll by Economist Group/YouGov found that “only 17 percent of respondents approved of the practice of earmarks.”
In response to the public outcry against the corruption and controversy surrounding earmarks, Congress banned them beginning in 2011. Bringing earmarks back, even under the seemingly wholesome name “community project funding,” would simply be a return to the bad old days.
Dickerson wrote that those who have seen the earmark process in action described it as “inherently corrupt.” “The prospect of directing millions of taxpayer dollars toward special interests creates an incentive for lawmakers, lobbyists, and potential recipients of earmarked funds to behave in unscrupulous ways.”
After giving numerous examples of the corruption in earmarks, Dickerson said that “Corruption is just one of the reasons why the ban on earmarks should not be lifted.” He gave another important reason for not lifting the ban: “earmarks encourage wasteful spending.” The total amount of government spending increases with earmarks even though the amount of dollars is a small percentage of total spending. The lifting of the ban on earmarks would be a sure sign that the swamp in Washington, D.C. was not drained.
Of course, the lack of earmarks does not stop corruption in Congress or wasting of tax dollars. The recent $1.9 trillion covid relief bill is nothing but corruption and waste. According to Michael Hendrix at the New York Post, “America’s states and cities are seeing a direct windfall north of half a trillion dollars.” However, blue states are reaping more benefits than red states. “Nine of the ten states with the lowest unemployment in America are led by Republican governors, and they are the ones punished under the relief bill’s formula.”
The biggest winners will be states who locked down the hardest during the pandemic. Their “Faucian bargain” has now paid off. Never mind that vaccine rates have been abysmal in states like California, which at one point ranked last in the country for getting jabs in arms, or that COVID-19 has blown past masks and mandates to infect millions in the Golden State.
States with the largest pension burdens, like Illinois and New Jersey, will also benefit from Biden’s bailout. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s latest budget conspicuously avoids lifting a finger to fix his state’s long-term insolvency. And papering over New York’s fiscal shortfalls still hasn’t stopped Gov. Andrew Cuomo from toying with higher taxes to soak the rich.
According to Hendrix, America has allocated approximately $5.5 trillion in COVID-19 relief spending. He compared those costs to the price that the United States paid for World War II – “roughly $4.8 trillion in 2021 dollars.” The latest relief bill was not necessary because about one-third of previous relief bills remains unspent. Democrats obviously wanted to bail out the blue states!