Closing the Earmarks Favor Factory
Mark Tapscott provides an extensive report of a Congressional Research Service finding that President Bush could, by mere executive order, stop all earmark spending directed by committee report rather than actual legislation. It turns out that this is the vast majority of all pork barrel spending.
Of course, no evidence whatsoever has been provided in the last seven years that Bush has any particular objection to wasteful spending. Furthermore, if he suddenly developed an interest in fiscal responsibility the victory would be short-lived; Congress would simply go back to including their earmarks in impossible-to-veto legislation.
There’s some value, I suppose, in at least forcing the legislature to overspend in the manner required by the Constitution. But the problem isn’t wily politicians but rather constituents who want low taxes and low spending — except for spending which benefits them in some obvious way.
Given our institutional arrangements, where spending is controlled by a bicameral legislature consisting of 535 geographically allocated representatives, a huge federal budget will inevitably create carve-outs, logrolling, horse-trading, pork barreling, and all manner of other inefficiencies. It’s both a feature and a bug.
While shining the spotlight on these practices might stop some of the most egregious abuses — bridges to nowhere and so forth — closing the “favor factory” will require a change in mindset. Unfortunately, the demand for government programs is, by all indications, rising.