Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Earmarks do a lot of good...

I can think of a better system for doing the good that earmarks do, but since everyone seems to assume unthinkingly that they are bad, I want to put my hands up for the good they do.

"Earmarks" are basically add-ons to legislation that are often tangential to that legislation.  They are currently under fire because 1) they seem sneaky, 2) they are associated with "special interest groups," and 3) the current libertarian atmosphere.  They seem sneaky because they are like the little fish that attach themselves to whales.  You want the whale, not the Remora attached to it.  But because you want the whale, you take the Remora too.  It's too hard to get legislation through to propose a bill just about that bridge that would bring commerce to the little island you live on. So you slip it in with something else.

Certainly special interest groups lobby for them.  The ethanol companies in my state would sure love that tax deduction, and that will help my state's economy.  Then there's the libertarian thing.  Why should I as a citizen of Indiana be paying for some bridge in Alaska?

After saying all that, I oppose doing away with earmarks until some other system to replace the good it does is in place.  The things these earmarks do are often the difference between the necessary and the beneficial.  Can we live with the ferry taking us to the island?  Yes.  But how much better things would be if we had a bridge, and my state does not have the extra money to build it.

As far as the libertarian argument goes, the principle is that what goes around comes around.  I may pay for your bridge today, but you will help my university tomorrow.  We all become better together than any of us could be alone.  This is the fatal flaw of libertarianism.  The sum is greater than its parts.

I'm sure there is a better way to do it, maybe a pie from which every state received a certain percentage for these sorts of projects.  But until something like that is in place, it would impoverish us to do away with earmarks.  Cut them down?  Absolutely.  Be very careful about the ludicrous ones?  Absolutely.  But recognize the great value they have played in enriching America as a whole?  Certainly.

12 comments:

Craig Moore said...

Mr Schenck seems to always be for our bankrupt government continuing to spread the wealth around. We are broke, but lets allow our politicians to keep their Pork. It seems to me that one of the first things to go when you are bankrupt and printing money should be Pork spending. Stick to theology Ken, your economics and math seem deficient to me.

Ken Schenck said...

He's alive! Hope you are well, Craig.

I'm all for dieting right now, just not a libertarian, Adkins diet. ;-)

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Ken,
I just read where an American company had a DOD contract with Iraq that they wanted to "hand over" to a Kuwati company. But, Iraq didn't want the American company to get out of the contract and is pursuing it...This American company was going to save the American taxpayer $$$, but for some unknown reason, Iraq wanted our people to pay, not Kuwait...is it possibley because our contractors are gouging the American taxpayer to do these overseas government programs... And it is not only the military contractors that overcharge, but humanitarian ones, like USAID, etc...

It just makes one wonder how much resentment is in the world, due to our prosperity. Obviously, many think that rectifying our "priviledge" by equalizing others, and penalizing ourselves, is the way to go....

So, when earmarks go through, sometimes we can't go back to re-negotiate what we've signed to buy...and this is costly and the American taxpayer foots the bill and doesn't even know where or how much what their buying really does for the nation...so it is not only what is good for our country....

We have a President who said recently that the unemployment benefits that will be extended "IS GOOD FOR OUR ECONOMY"!!!Now that is ludacrous! Does he want many people to be so dependent on government? He actually said that these people would produce custormers for businesses...I don't think he knows what it costs the average American to raise a family...by the time the bills are paid, food on the table and clothes on the backs of their children, many won't have anything left over to promote economic growth!!! And thus, more jobs!!!

Ken Schenck said...

Angie, I was listening to an economist explain the stimulus benefit respectively of the unemployment extension and the 250,000+ extension. Mind you, I don't know who this person was and don't know the formula myself.

But he was explaining that since the unemployed will almost certainly spend every dime they get on staples and such, the stimulus benefit is $1.40 for every dollar we give them. Meanwhile, since the wealthy are more likely to save their money, the stimulus benefit for every dollar to them is $0.40.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

In real math and in real time, spending $1 does not equal $1.40, unless it is invested. Investments are future oriented, but so are savings. One is understood to be more risky, but it also offers more "value" (productiveness) in the end.

So, are we talking about what the government wants to invest by the spending we do? Does that equate to our indebtedness to China?

Are you suggesting that those that save are all wealthy? Is your definition of wealth having little more than food and shelter? Some people would disagree, as savings means responsible behavior, but to those that think there are more "moral ways" to distribute "that over-abundance", savings would be judged as "greed".

Because of the differences in a person's cognitive make-up, family background, human experience, and situatedness, people will differ as to how to handle their money. And those that think there is only one way, anger those that differ.(This has been happening in our country about taxes, and healtcare) Many marital disagreements happen over "what money means", and "how money should be handled"....

Craig Moore said...

I would like to do some personal Pork spending and buy myself a nice Rolex Submariner watch. I need a good watch so that I will be on time for church each Sunday and the $6,000 price tag is not to much. I will just send the bill to the Schenck family. The head of their home loves Pork spending. Spending other people's cash is OK with him.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Craig,
You are "onto something"! Perhaps, those who like the "pork" will be willing to pay for the "pork". The rest of us can "opt out". That would mean that those that benefit from the "pork" would be paying for their "pork"!!! Nice job!

::athada:: said...

Angie,

C'mon... opting out of the federal system means opting out of the US of A, or maybe, someday, moving to the Republic of Texas. Remember, there is always New Zealand available for you :) And when Palin wins in 2012 (the abomination of desolation), those who favor a strong fed. can head north to Canada. ;)

Angie Van De Merwe said...

athada,

I'm not making a claim against a federal system. I am asking a question about how we can get out of this mess!

When our representatives can't possibley represent us because they can't vote responsibly and knowledgably, then what is the use of our "representative republic"?! It ceases to exist! This has been happening for a long time where the Representatives have thought that to get re-elected they must "take on" the "pork"... for their particular state of their particular 'lobby" of choice...

As the problem was multi-dimensional, there must be a solution that is multi-dimensional...we need campaign finance refore so that it doesn't costs so much to run for office, perhaps, the federal government establishes a "tax" that pays for a equal distribution of monies for campaigns...We need to re-vamp how legislators "do business" in making our laws. Should there be limits on thier ability to "pork up" the bills...We need to address special interests/lobbyists...though there are laws on the books, it doesn't seem to make much difference in what really happens....and we need somehow to "correct" Congress in regards to voting on legislation that benefits themselves at the costs to our government/people's interests...

All of this to say, that I value our government, as it was meant to be, not what it has become! So, I'm sorry if I gave the wrong impression!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

and perhaps, what I am really saying is that laws can always be "gotten around", so ethical behavior is a matter of character. One can't legislate character. Circumstances and situations calls for wisdom and commitment to principles of honesty, trustworthiness, and commitment to those they serve....

Angie Van De Merwe said...

So sorry, Ken that your "pork" didn't make it through! Better luch next time :)...

Can anyone answer why Congress doesn't have term limits?

And does anyone think that when Congress meets secretly with thier own party at the "end of the day", that they are acting in "good faith"? I think that it is great that States are holding the feds accountable....

Ken Schenck said...

Angie, I don't know anything about that bill or what its earmarks were for. My claim is very simple. Earmarks are not intrinsically bad. Could a better system be put in place? Surely.