Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Catch of the Day

Steve Benen reads Eric Cantor on earmarks, and unloads.  Excellent points.

I don't know whether or not Cantor actually knows what he's talking about on earmarks, but he certainly doesn't write as if he understood them.  To his credit, Cantor does at least acknowledge the argument for earmarks:
Some make the case that if Congress doesn’t earmark, unelected bureaucrats will decide how to spend the same money. In the next Congress, however, our mission must be to ensure that time is spent reducing spending -- period. If bureaucrats are misspending funds or wasting them on low priority projects, our responsibility should be to conduct the proper oversight to hold them to account and fix the problem. 
Well, everyone is for oversight (well, except for the Republicans who were famously indifferent to it during the George W. Bush presidency).  But "oversight" isn't cutting spending, any more than eliminating earmarks is cutting spending.  

The truth is: earmarks are about how to spend money, not how much money to spend.  Let's try a household example: say that you give your kid $10 a week, and tell her she has to buy milk on Tuesday and an apple on Thursday.  Then, the next week, you give her $10, without telling her how to spend it.  Congratulations: you've eliminated earmarks!  Feeling richer yet?
If Members of Congress wants to spend less money, they need to appropriate less money; it doesn't matter at all, not one bit, whether the money that they do spend is allocated by Congressional instructions, by formula, or by decoding clues found in Dan Brown books.  The rest is just blowing smoke.

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