One of the best portents for the 112th Congress was Senator Mitch McConnell’s reversal on earmarks-he now supports the unilateral moratorium on this insidious way of spending our money. The Wall Street Journal notes: “Maybe the Republicans are listening, after all.”
Mr. McConnell saw that danger and had the wisdom to reverse himself. “Old habits aren’t easy to break, but sometimes they must be,” he said in a strong statement on the Senate floor. For two years, he said, he has accused “Democrats of ignoring the wishes of the American people. When it comes to earmarks, I won’t be guilty of the same thing.” It was a necessary act of leadership by the Minority Leader and should reinforce his authority in the larger battles ahead.
His new position also clears the way for a big GOP vote in favor of the ban. With House Republicans also poised to pass a moratorium-thanks to leaders Eric Cantor and John Boehner-the Grand Old Party will stand united against the special-interest projects that have become the poster child of Washington’s spending blowouts.
McConnell and others originally advanced the argument that doing away with earmarks won’t save that much money. It was said that the money would be spent anyway and earmarks allowed somebody close to a district to make the decisions. Since I go home several times a year, to the poorest state in the Union, I get to see some of the ways taxpayer money is spent. I think of earmarks as the Incumbents Protection Program-a way to stay in office by doing things with other people’s money. Loading a bill with earmarks is also a way to get it through Congress.
Slate has a piece on how banning earmarks won’t save that much money. I can’t comment on the economics of earmarks, but I do know they are unseemly. They also add to the impression, an impression bolstered by too-lavish travel budgets, probably larger than necessary office staffs, and other amenities that money grows on trees. The people who spend our money are able to do it with such ease. A ban on earmarks will be one small victory against easy spending.