A Marked Mistake

  In President Obama’s recent State of the Union address, he vowed to veto any bill containing earmarks that comes to his desk. Subsequently, Congress has banned spending through the use of earmarks for the next two years. While it is true that earmarks have been a scapegoat for critics of federal spending, an outright ban on earmark or “pork barrel”spending was clearly not the correct reaction. The ban on earmarks creates a bevy of issues for localities around the nation that are expecting earmark funding for important local projects. It is certainly humorous, and easy, to bring up some earmarks that propose funding for things the government should never be spending money on. Millions of dollars being appropriated for “improvements to a pond in Maplewood, Minn.”or for the construction of a teapot museum seems like a ludicrous waste of money –because it is. However, I’m sure nobody would argue that the Fed helping out local communities by funding bridge repairs or rape victim programs through earmarks is an irresponsible way to spend money. So what is the issue, then? Why can’t lawmakers simply leave the good earmarks in and remove the unnecessary ones? It is not as if earmarks are run by a giant light switch that forces us to either have them or not. But apparently, according to Obama and the Senate Appropriations Committee, there is no middle ground –they have simply chosen to turn out the lights on earmarks altogether. There are those who are opposed to earmarks fundamentally, insofar as to say that senators should not be inserting small bits of spending into congressional bills that are apparently unreadable. I would not disagree that congressional spending should be as up front and transparent as possible, but why ax even the useful earmarks that local communities are counting on as part of their budget? Are representatives not to be bothered by the troublesome task of determining whether earmark spending is legitimate or ridiculous? Well, excuse me for expecting them to at least read some of the legislation that they sign. Not that I would want to wade through a congressional bill searching for earmarks, but then again, I do not aspire to work on Capitol Hill. If that is too much to ask, why not ask that earmarks be scanned before going into a bill to hide amongst its innumerable pages? There has to be a way to get this necessary funding to the people that need it without overtaxing our hardworking legislators. Perhaps Obama is looking to make things more “transparent”by banning earmarks, but with such spending only taking up 0.5 percent of the federal budget each year, it wouldn’t seem to be much trouble to police earmarks and allow the “good”ones, rather than turning them off altogether.