Ron Paul Loves Earmarks
CQ’s David Nather reports that libertarian Ron Paul, who has earned the nickname “Dr. No” for voting against any program “not specifically authorized by the Constitution,” has sponsored “no fewer than 10 earmarks in the water resources bill” that would benefit his district.
It turns out, though, that for all his scourging of government excess, Paul never has been much of a crusader against earmarks. As he put it in a floor speech last year, “earmarks . . . are a symptom of the problem, not the cause. The real problem is that the United States government is too big, spends too much, and has too much power.”
Still, why play along by earmarking federal spending? Because a crackdown on earmarks, he says, would only grant the executive branch more control over where the money goes. The total amount of spending wouldn’t change. “There’s nothing wrong with designating where the money goes,” Paul says — so long as the earmark is “up front and everyone knows about it,” rather than having it slipped in at the last minute with no scrutiny.
In an ideal world, Paul says, there wouldn’t be a federal income tax. But since there is, he says, he feels a responsibility to help his constituents recover some of the tax dollars the government has taken from them. “I don’t want them to take it,” he says, “but if they do take it, I’d just as soon help my constituents get it back.”
That’s a pretty reasonable argument. I think the Designated Hitter is an abomination but were I (for some incredibly bizarre reason) suddenly named manager of an American League team, I’d nonetheless use it. One plays the game by the rules as they exist even while working to change the rules. To do otherwise is to shortchange your team or, in this case, constituents.