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Support the earmark moratorium

Posted by Richard on November 13, 2010

*** UPDATE (11/15): Sen. McConnell has felt the heat and seen the light. ***

Next Tuesday, we'll find out how many Republican senators have learned the lesson of the last four years. That's when the GOP Conference votes on Sen. DeMint's earmark moratorium. House Republicans are solidly behind the pork moratorium. But in the Senate, minority leader Mitch McConnell seems to be quietly trying to line up opposition to DeMint's proposal. And he seems to have support from the usual suspects — Inhofe, Graham, Alexander, Shelby, and other members of the Republican wing of the Ruling Class.

On Wednesday in National Review's The Corner, Sen. Tom Coburn laid out the case against earmarks and demolished the specious arguments of the Ruling Class Republicans defending them. Here are some excerpts from his column (emphasis added): 

It’s true that earmarks themselves represent a tiny portion of the budget, but a small rudder can help steer a big ship, which is why I’ve long described earmarks as the gateway drug to spending addiction in Washington. No one can deny that earmarks like the Cornhusker Kickback have been used to push through extremely costly and onerous bills. Plus, senators know that as the number of earmarks has exploded so has overall spending. In the past decade, the size of government has doubled while Congress approved more than 90,000 earmarks.

Earmarks were rare until recently. In 1987, President Reagan vetoed a spending bill because it contained 121 earmarks. Eliminating earmarks will not balance the budget overnight, but it is an important step toward getting spending under control. 

… This is not a struggle between the executive branch and Congress but between the American people and Washington. … An earmark ban would tell the American people that Congress gets it. After all, it’s their money, not ours.

An earmark moratorium would not result in Congress giving up one iota of its spending power. In any event, Republicans should be fighting over how to cut government spending, not how to divide it up.

Our founders anticipated earmark-style power grabs from Congress and spoke against such excess for the ages. …

Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to James Madison, spoke directly against federally-funded local projects. “[I]t will be the source of eternal scramble among the members, who can get the most money wasted in their State; and they will always get the most who are the meanest.” Jefferson understood that earmarks and coercion would go hand in hand.

If any policy mandate can be derived from the election it is to spend less money. Eliminating earmarks is the first step on that path. The House GOP has accepted that mandate. The Senate GOP now has to decide whether to ignore not only the American people but their colleagues in the House. …

In recent years the conventional wisdom that earmarks create jobs has been turned on its head. The Obama administration’s stimulus bill itself, which is arguably a collection of earmarks approved by Congress, proves this point. Neither Obama’s stimulus nor Republican stimulus — GOP earmarks — is very effective at creating jobs.

Harvard University conducted an extensive study this year of how earmarks impact states. The researchers expected to find that earmarks drive economic growth but found the opposite.

“It was an enormous surprise, at least to us, to learn that the average firm in the chairman’s state did not benefit at all from the unanticipated increase in spending,” said Joshua Coval, one of the study’s authors. The study found that as earmarks increase capital investment and expenditures by private businesses decrease, by 15 percent specifically. In other words, federal pork crowds out private investment and slows job growth. Earmarks are an odd GOP infatuation with failed Keynesian economics that hurts local economies.

FreedomWorks' Now We Must Govern project is tracking where GOP senators and senators-elect stand on this issue. A link on that page takes you to their "Call Congress: Ban Earmarks!" action page. If one of your senators has not yet taken a stand on earmarks (most haven't; not even those secretly working against the DeMint proposal), please take a minute to call their office or send an email and politely demand that they honor the wishes of the American people and renounce pork. 

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