With the self-imposed GOP earmark ban, those grand old party stalwarts have simply got to find new ways to bring money back to their districts. So getchyerselfs ready for LETTERMARKS and PHONEMARKS!
Though [Rep.] Kirk and other Republicans thundered against pork-barrel spending and lawmakers’ practice of designating money for special projects through earmarks, they have not shied from using a less-well-known process called lettermarking to try to direct money to projects in their home districts.
Mr. Kirk, for example, sent a letter to the Department of Education dated Sept. 10, 2009, asking it to release money “needed to support students and educational programs” in a local school district. The letter was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the group Citizens Against Government Waste, which shared it with The New York Times.
The district, Woodland School District 50, said it later received about $1.1 million in stimulus money.
That’s a lettermark.
In phonemarking, a lawmaker calls an agency to request financing for a project. More indirectly, members of Congress make use of what are known as soft earmarks, which involve making suggestions about where money should be directed, instead of explicitly instructing agencies to finance a project. Members also push for increases in financing of certain accounts in a federal agency’s budget and then forcefully request that the agency spend the money on the members’ pet project.
Because all these methods sidestep the regular legislative process, the number of times they are used and the money involved are even harder to track than with regular earmarks.
Let’s review what we’re dealing with. Here’s the amount of the budget that is earmarks: 0.45%.
Here’s the budget deficit as a percentage of the total budget: 32.9%
Republicans, they say they hates them some earmarks but the reality is that they just can’t quit them. They have got to bring home the
bacon pork to keep getting reelected.
[M]any people both inside and outside Congress remain skeptical that much will change if earmarks are banned, since legislators have a history of finding new ways to try to get money for their districts.
David E. Williams, vice president for policy at Citizens Against Government Waste, likened the effort to stamp out earmarks to a game of “Whack-a-Mole.”
“When one door closes, there is always two or three more that they can go through,” Mr. Williams said, adding that he feared that lawmakers would develop even less transparent ways to finance their special projects.
While both Republicans and Democrats use earmarks, only Republicans seem to see them as eeeeevil. Why don’t Democrats? Because, well, this:
In other words: they don’t impact the budget in a tangible way. No. Let me rephrase that: THEY DON’T IMPACT THE BUDGET AT ALL!!! BECAUSE IT’S MONEY THAT’S ALREADY IN THE BUDGET!!!
We can only hope that their inability to bring money back to their districts will negatively impact their chances for reelection. But it won’t because, at the end of the day, they’ll find a way to do it anyway.
“If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck,” [Steve] Ellis [of Taxpayers for Common Sense] said. “These are clearly earmarks.”
And, eventually, they are going to get tired of having to go through the lettermarking and phonemarking charade. As Ezra Klein predicts, “The move from earmarking to lettermarking, phonemarking, hearingmarking, etc, wasn’t just predictable. It was inevitable. And make no mistake: Within three-to-five years, we’re likely to be back to earmarking as well.“
I’m just sayin’…
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