Commentary by James H. Shott
There are so many fertile topics these days that it is difficult to pick one. There’s the idiotic, PC driven airport security process; there’s the earmark spending methodology that wastes billions of dollars each year; there’s the jeopardy our government has put our economy in; the manic push for government to be in charge of everything; the out-of-control Environmental Protection Agency; there’s the dangerous healthcare reform bill; the failure of elected representatives to get the message from the voters on Nov. 2; the Federal Reserve wrecking our currency; to name a few. Where to begin?
Let’s begin with earmarks.
Getting rid of earmarks as Republicans have pledged is a good idea, even if doing so will not actually reduce the budget, as defenders of the practice are quick to point out. But that isn’t really the purpose of banning earmarks in the first place.
Earmarks are specific allotments of budgeted spending designated by members of Congress for their pet projects that amounted to about $16 billion this year. That is equal to the median federal income tax paid by 6.9 million Americans.
The purpose of the earmark ban is to restore integrity and transparency to the spending process, and to eliminate political pork traveling from individual lawmakers to their districts and states. It is an incestuous process that mostly benefits the lawmaker responsible for sending home the bacon, and those few who get the benefit of the pork.
When Congressman Fatback earmarks $1.5 million for the Boss Hog Library in Podunk, California, as he promised the state library commission in return for their campaign support, or Senator Porker earmarks $700,000 to study swine blight in Kentucky in return for the support of everyone with blighted swine on their farm, they are spending your money for the benefit of a few of their constituents. These expenditures are not subjected to debate by their colleagues in the Congress, or to the scrutiny and oversight of the public.
Congresspersons will be more likely to vote for a bill that contains their earmarks than they might otherwise, and earmarks are not infrequently offered to members to entice them to vote for a bill they otherwise might not vote for. Arizona Republican Rep. Jeff Flake calls earmarks “a gateway drug to a spending addiction. Once you have an earmark in a bill,” he said, “you feel obligated to vote for it, no matter how bloated it becomes.”
If a project in a particular Congressional district or state is really in the national interest, should it not be publicly debated before being approved by the Congress, not slipped through under the table? And, the larger question is if Congress can’t control its earmarks spending addiction, how will it ever deal with very serious problems like Social Security and Medicare?
And then there’s the EPA.
It is difficult to determine whether the Justice Department or the Environmental Protection Agency is the most heavily politicized of this administration’s departments and agencies, but my vote goes to the EPA.
Kyle Isakower, vice president of regulatory and economic policy at the American Petroleum Institute, compared the Obama EPA with the Bush EPA. In the first 18 months of the second Bush administration, he notes that the EPA proposed 16 significant regulations, or regulations that have an annual economic impact of $100 million or more. That was a lot of regulation, but the current EPA has proposed 42 such regulations in its first 18 months, nearly three times what the Bush EPA did.
The EPA’s blindly ideological bureaucrats seem to believe they can do whatever they want in pursuit of their environmental goals, as if they are autonomous and omnipotent. One instance of this tendency is increasing the amount of ethanol in gasoline by half, from 10 percent to 15 percent, even before testing has been completed on E15 fuel, and in the face of evidence that this increase may have substantial negative consequences.
Another example is the EPA rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act that are scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 2, 2011. What the agency is doing is changing the law, something government agencies do not have the authority to do; only Congress can do that.
The EPA is under control of environmental zealots who are bound and determined to implement draconian policies and regulations with little if any regard for the effects those mandates have on the economy and the people they serve.
Parents sometimes must force their children to do something they don’t want to do because it will ultimately be good for them. Perhaps what the EPA wants to force on us will ultimately be good for us, or perhaps not. But the federal government is not our parent, it is our servant. And it can neither make us do what we do not want to do, nor refuse to do what we want done. In the United States of America, the people are in control of the government, not the other way around.
The violation of this fundamental rule is evident in both the earmark issue and the behavior of the EPA.
Cross-posted from Observations