Friday, August 10, 2007

Congressional Earmark Corruption Continued

Congressional election politics last time around included "promises" to reform the practice of budget earmarking by members of Congress. While the issue and the "promises" seemed prominent in news and commentary then, one wonders what Congress has been up to in delivering on the "promises" to reform. There have actually been efforts to deliver on the promises, and the Club for Growth has been watching and keeping a scorecard. In the House there have apparently been 50 amendments offered that would strip earmark pork from appropriations bills. Unfortunately, 49 of those amendments FAILED. The Club for Growth's scorecard, along with notes of interest, can be found here. Two of the interesting notes are:
Sixteen congressmen scored a perfect 100%, voting for all 50 anti-pork amendments. They are all Republicans.

105 congressmen scored an embarrassing 0%, voting against every single amendment. The Pork Hall of Shame includes 81 Democrats and 24 Republicans.

Only 16 members of Congress voted in favor of all 50 anti-pork amendments, while 105 members of Congress voted against all the amendments aimed at removing the pork.

Let's consider some of the pork projects:
$300,000 for the On Location Entertainment Industry Craft and Technician Training project

$150,000 for the South Carolina Aquarium

$200,000 for the Corporation for Jefferson's Popular Forest

$2,000,000 for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service (Hmmm, guess we know who requested this one)

$628,843 for grape genetics research

$400,000 for the alternative uses of a tobacco grant

$489,000 for Ruminant Nutrition Consortium

$6,371,000 for the wood utilization grant
I think a list like this is troubling enough (just try to figure out which enumerated power in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution these spending projects fit under). But, a list may not help you understand why all this seems like corruption to me. So, consider this note by the Club for Growth:
$1 million to the Center for Instrumented Critical Infrastructure in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, requested by Rep. John Murtha (D-PA). No congressional member could confirm the existence of the alleged Center. Amendment failed, 98-326.
What is a voter to think when 326 members of Congress vote to spend $1 million on something they don't know exists?

Oh, let's not forget, one of the 50 amendments to remove the pork did actually pass:
$129,000 for the "perfect Christmas tree" project.
I guess we can't look forward to a future with perfect Christmas trees. Well, good, this is probably as it should be.

The corruption in all of this is not that Congress spends money on such projects. It is inherent in the characteristics of legislatures to supply the rent seekers with such projects. The corruption in all this is that these projects become part of appropriations bills because individual members of Congress are allowed to put them there, and often the individual requests for such spending projects are made secretly because the members making the requests are not identified. It has even been the case in the past that such earmarks do not appear in the written language of the appropriations bills being passed by Congress.

I would certainly like to see our corrupt Congress reformed, but alas, I do not think this is very likely. I would certainly like to see Congress and the federal government in general significantly constrained in the powers it is allowed to exercise. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court doesn't seem to have the heart for this either (although there was a time back in history when it did).

Maybe, though, people can come to see government as it is, and to see it's nature as James Madison (and his compatriots) told us long ago. But, given that I suggest to my students that they assume voters are rationally ignorant, there is not much hope for this idea either.

I'm kind of bummed now. Maybe I should think about joining the rationally ignorant.

[via Instapundit]

No comments: