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View Poll Results: Based on the definition below, I think:
Earmarks sound like a good idea
1
3.85%
They're crap and just waste money
13
50.00%
Sometimes they're good and sometimes they're crap
10
38.46%
I pulled twikoff's ear and it left a mark
2
7.69%
Voters: 26. You may not vote on this poll

The Great Earmark Debate II

Old 01-16-08, 12:40 PM
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The Great Earmark Debate

Wikipedia definition
In the United States legislative appropriations process, Congress has, within the powers granted under Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, the ability to direct the appropriations of money drawn from the U.S. Treasury. This includes the power to earmark funds it appropriates to be spent on specific named projects. The earmarking process has become a regular part of the process of allocating funds within the Federal government.

Earmarking differs from the broader appropriations process, defined in the Constitution, in which Congress grants a yearly lump sum of money to a Federal agency. These monies are allocated by the agency according to its legal authority and internal budgeting process. With an earmark, Congress has given itself the ability to direct a specified amount of money from an agency's budget to be spent on a particular project, without the Members of Congress having to identify themselves or the project.

Controversy

Earmarks in U.S. legislation have been a point of contention for many years. Critics argue that the ability to earmark Federal funds should not be part of the legislative appropriations process [3]. Tax money should be applied by Federal agencies according to objective findings of need and carefully constructed requests rather than being earmarked arbitrarily by elected officials. Supporters of earmarks however, feel that elected officials are better able to prioritize funding needs in their own districts and states and that it is more democratic for these officials to make discreet funding decisions than unelected civil servants. Critics counter that elected representatives have too much of a vested interest in their own districts and do not have the Nation's interests as a whole in mind when making these decisions with taxpayer money.

Despite ongoing controversy over their use, Congress' year-end budget passed in December 2007 contains almost 9,000 earmarks. 2,658 of them representing $13.2 billion have been identified as "Pork Projects" by Citizens Against Government Waste, significantly lower than the numbers and dollar amounts of recent prior years: 13,997 "Pork Projects" for a total of $27.3 billion in 2005, and 9,963 projects for a total of $29 billion in 2006.[4]
In order to help the Presidential thread from spawning into a pseudo earmark thread, lets have a whole new thread, with bonus poll attached!
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Old 01-16-08, 12:45 PM
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I'm not sure how I feel on it honestly. Couldn't the federal departments waste the money just as successfully as the legislators?
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Old 01-16-08, 12:48 PM
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Neither. There are legitimate reasons/uses for some earmarks. Just like there is wasteful budgetary spending, there are wasteful earmarks.
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Old 01-16-08, 12:50 PM
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Thanks Vin!
Originally Posted by classicman2
Earmarks means that Congress has appropriated the money for a specific purpose.
Originally Posted by wendersfan
The point many of us are trying to make is that, while earmarks might have been designed with a beneficial purpose, it's their rampant abuse that's the problem. If earmarks were used responsibly then there wouldn't be much of a problem.
A History of Earmarks (or rather, the lack thereof)
By Julie Kesselman

Lately, it seems many Members of Congress have come to the dubious conclusion that earmarking “has been going on since we were a country,” as Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid recently asserted on PBS. Frankly, that’s pure bunkum, and quite easy to challenge.

Just take a look at the history of the Defense Appropriations Bill: Taxpayers for Common Sense calculated that the 1970 Defense Appropriations Bill had a dozen earmarks; the 1980 bill had 62 earmarks; and by 2005, the defense bill had skyrocketed to 2,671 earmarks. The most recent bill spends money on anything from the eradication of brown tree snakes in Guam, to a virtual reality spray paint simulator system in Pine City, Minnesota. (And remember, this is the Defense Appropriations Bill. What do snakes and spray paint have to do with maintaining our nation’s security?)


The same story goes for the now notoriously larded-up Transportation Bill. When President Eisenhower proposed the first national highway bill a half century ago, there were two projects singled out for funding. Last August, when Congress passed the latest six year, $286.4 billion Transportation Bill, there were, by one estimate, 6,371 of these “special” projects, ranging from $200,000 for a deer avoidance system in Weedsport, N.Y., to $3 million for dust control mitigation on Arkansas’ rural roads.

Ironically, the President once known for vetoing a Highway bill because it had – gasp! – 152 earmarks, is himself being honored with his very own $2.3 million earmark (for landscaping on the Ronald Reagan Freeway in California).

Of course, if this recent historical accounting doesn’t convince you, let’s go even farther back, to the days when pork-barrel actually referred to a container for unwanted extras from slaughtered pigs.

The idea of funneling federal funds to specific local projects originally came from Congressman John C. Calhoun, when he proposed the Bonus Bill of 1817 to construct highways linking the East and South of the United States to its Western frontier (referred to as “internal improvements”). Calhoun wanted to use the earnings bonus from the Second Bank of the United States specifically for this program, arguing that the General Welfare and Post Roads clauses of the United States Constitution allowed for it. Without speaking to its merits, President James Madison vetoed the bill as unconstitutional. He explains his reasoning to Congress in his veto message:
Having considered the bill ... I am constrained by the insuperable difficulty I feel in reconciling this bill with the Constitution of the United States. ... The legislative powers vested in Congress are specified ... in the ... Constitution, and it does not appear that the power proposed to be exercised by the bill is among the enumerated powers. ...
And regarding the General Welfare Clause, Madison responds:
Such a view of the Constitution would have the effect of giving to Congress a general power of legislation instead of the defined and limited one hitherto understood to belong to them, the terms 'common defense and general welfare' embracing every object and act within the purview of a legislative trust.
Directly from the horse’s mouth, ladies and gentlemen: earmarking is not an enumerated power of Congress. Nor is it written in stone anywhere, as the Honorable J. Denny Hastert seems to think; that is, earmarking is “what members do” or that members are best positioned to know where to put a “red light in their district” (urban planners in state and local governments are probably better adept to determine the position of traffic lights than the 20-something staffers piling on the earmarks in DC).

Ultimately, the fact that Congress once showed budgetary restraint and fiscal continence – even as recent as the 1970s – suggests that the propensity to earmark is not some inherent flaw in American democracy, but rather a willful irresponsibility now embraced by all too many members.

It’s time for Congress to realize that there is life after earmarks. We survived before them; we’ll survive after they’re gone.
http://www.americansforprosperity.org/index.php?id=1049
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Old 01-16-08, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Red Dog
Neither. There are legitimate reasons/uses for some earmarks. Just like there is wasteful budgetary spending, there are wasteful earmarks.
So why is everybody getting in a huge huff over them? Is it because it's easy to find out when a legislator gets some serious coin to build a bridge to nowhere for instance?
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Old 01-16-08, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by VinVega
So why is everybody getting in a huge huff over them? Is it because it's easy to find out when a legislator gets some serious coin to build a bridge to nowhere for instance?
see wishbon3's graph to see why the huff.
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Old 01-16-08, 12:55 PM
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'Everyone' is huff about the wasteful earmarks. A certain individual has taken that mean 1) such people don't know shit about earmarks and 2) that they are anti-earmark across the board.

Earmarks make up a tiny portion of federal spending. If you eliminated every earmark, it would hardly make a dent. I believe in trimming real fat - across agencies and eliminating certain agencies altogether.
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Old 01-16-08, 12:56 PM
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Where's the option for "Earmarks are crap and waste money, except for those proposed by MY senator that benefit MY state"?
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Old 01-16-08, 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
Where's the option for "Earmarks are crap and waste money, except for those proposed by MY senator that benefit MY state"?
I think my poll will not get the attention it rightly deserves now.
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Old 01-16-08, 01:00 PM
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Argument. The legislature represents, as closely as possible in a large republic, the 'direct voice of the people.' As such it should determine, as specifically as possible, where and how public funds are spent.

Counter. Congress is a partisan elective body. Members in the majority party will control and disburse federal dollars subjectively, based on partisan reasons. Also, collusion between members to maintain incumbency advantage is not only likely, but inevitable.

Argument. The executive, staffed with a nonpartisan, entrenched and competent civil service class can most effectively disburse federal funds to where they are actually needed.

Counter. An independent civil service class is becoming a thing of the past, as politically-based appointments descend further down the rungs of federal employment.
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Old 01-16-08, 01:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Red Dog
'Everyone' is huff about the wasteful earmarks. A certain individual has taken that mean 1) such people don't know shit about earmarks and 2) that they are anti-earmark across the board.
I don't know who you could be referring to.
Earmarks make up a tiny portion of federal spending. If you eliminated every earmark, it would hardly make a dent. I believe in trimming real fat - across agencies and eliminating certain agencies altogether.
I think I might get a little scared if you expanded on that.
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Old 01-16-08, 01:10 PM
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They are crap, waste money, and are legalized graft (or extortion?) that members of Congress use to exchange their votes for favors for their district.

If a bill can't quite pass, someone will offer an earmark suggestion that would buy his vote. Simple as that.
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Old 01-16-08, 01:23 PM
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From the 2008 election thread:

Originally Posted by wendersfan
The point many of us are trying to make is that, while earmarks might have been designed with a beneficial purpose, it's their rampant abuse that's the problem. If earmarks were used responsibly then there wouldn't be much of a problem.
If we take as a given that it's constitutional for the Federal government to spend money on the Robert C. Byrd Paper Clip Museum (a big if, I understand), then it seems just as legitimate -- if not more so -- for Congress to appropriate $1 million for the museum than for the Department of the Interior to decide on its own that $1 million is the appropriate amount of its budget to spend.

The big problem I have with earmarks is when they are not part of the actual legislation that gets voted on by both houses and signed by the president.
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Old 01-16-08, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by JasonF
If we take as a given that it's constitutional for the Federal government to spend money on the Robert C. Byrd Paper Clip Museum (a big if, I understand),
In case anyone cares:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Byrd#Placenames

I've been to, crossed, or driven on at least a half-dozen of the things listed.
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Old 01-16-08, 01:43 PM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
In case anyone cares:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Byrd#Placenames

I've been to, crossed, or driven on at least a half-dozen of the things listed.
Not such a big if after all!
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Old 01-16-08, 02:04 PM
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The "if" was whether it's constitutional to spend federal money on a paperclip museum. I have no doubt that if such a museum were to be built, it would be named Senator Byrd.
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Old 01-16-08, 02:14 PM
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Paper used in commerce. Clips bind paper together.

Hey, I'm pretty good at this when I apply myself.
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Old 01-16-08, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Red Dog
'Everyone' is huff about the wasteful earmarks. A certain individual has taken that mean 1) such people don't know shit about earmarks and 2) that they are anti-earmark across the board.

Earmarks make up a tiny portion of federal spending. If you eliminated every earmark, it would hardly make a dent. I believe in trimming real fat - across agencies and eliminating certain agencies altogether.
I would like to thank Red Dog for the remarks made in the second paragraph.

I ignored the first paragraph.

The big problem I have with earmarks is when they are not part of the actual legislation that gets voted on by both houses and signed by the president
The problem with that is that frequently earmarks are emergency situations.

As I've said 100 times or more - 75% + of the earmarks go through the regular budget (legislative) process.
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Old 01-16-08, 02:17 PM
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If you're seriously concerned about fiscal discipline, then you need to look at things other than earmarks - say the largest discretionary spending program we have.
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Old 01-16-08, 02:23 PM
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btw: Can we add another option to the poll?
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Old 01-16-08, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Red Dog
Paper used in commerce. Clips bind paper together.

Hey, I'm pretty good at this when I apply myself.
The correct answer for any museum is that it will attract visitors from out of state, thereby placing it well within the stream of interstate commerce.
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Old 01-16-08, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
btw: Can we add another option to the poll?
I would have to create a new one, but what would you like?
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Old 01-16-08, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by JasonF
The correct answer for any museum is that it will attract visitors from out of state, thereby placing it well within the stream of interstate commerce.
Then the Robert C. Byrd Paper Clip Museum should definitely be in Huntington WV (the town of my birth), since it's just a few miles from not one, but two other states. I'll call up Dave Felinton (the mayor of Huntington) and have him get right on it.
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Old 01-16-08, 02:40 PM
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sometimes

It's not simply a black & white issue.

It's like any kind of legislation. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's not so good. Sometimes it lousy.

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Old 01-16-08, 02:41 PM
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Federal Funding of Museums
April 5, 2006

The hearing examined the amount of money the federal government has spent to support museums, cultural centers and other programming in recent years.

The administration has requested at least $1.45 billion in fiscal year 2007 for funding of the arts, cultural or learning activities and museum buildings. Total authorized federal spending on museums has increased by almost 25 percent since fiscal year 2001.

At the hearing Dr. Coburn released a report of museum earmarks between 2001 and 2006. The report shows that last year almost 70 percent of such earmarks went to the home states of Members of the Appropriations Committee. Dr. Coburn heard testimony about the successful competitive grants process administered by the National Science Foundation’s Informal Science Education and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

“I’m pleased two agencies have introduced accountability and transparency to the museum grant process. However, it’s disappointing that more than 800 earmarks have been doled out for museums over the past five years without competition or accountability,” Dr. Coburn said. “I agree the arts are a crucial component of a well-rounded education, but in a time of war and unprecedented fiscal challenges should we steal from our grandchildren’s future to pay for increased spending and museum earmarks?”
http://coburn.senate.gov/ffm/index.c...2-fa337afda040

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