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OPINION | EDITORIAL: Gonna leave a mark

Adding slime doesn’t drain the swamp March 19, 2021 at 3:18 a.m.

You might have missed it. With everything going on--covid-19, vaccines, March Madness--the story sorta came in under the news radar. Thank goodness for page 3A and the wire editors who put the story there.

Earmarks are back. And with the approval of both parties.

A decade ago, Republicans led the effort to kill earmarks, which are line items added to legislation sending money back to home districts for specific projects. While loading up spending bills with enough pink pork to sicken an army.

This week the Republicans in the U.S. House voted to allow their members to seek earmarks, too. It should be noted that the Democrats were creating a new process for earmarks again, and the Republicans say they voted this way to keep their districts from being at a disadvantage, spending-wise.

Hey, they started it. Which is always the best argument when arguing on playgrounds or Congress. Besides, what better way to make Washington run more smoothly than greasing the tracks a bit with borrowed taxpayer money?

Before the reforms of a Republican Party once concerned about deficits and debt, lawmakers could add language to bills requiring federal agencies to spend, spend, spend in their districts without those pesky cost-analysis reports. Just earmark the bill and--hooray!--money flows.

It helps things run more efficiently (for the sake of compromise, and the good of the country) when some annoying Mr. Smith goes to Washington to blow the whistle on things. Just put a new fire station or grand library in his district, and he'll see things the same as his party leadership. One senator once described earmarks as sprinkling fairy dust in the back rooms of Congress.

It could be magic again! Here's a telling passage from the AP story: "The return of earmarking could have enormous implications for the allocation of spending across the country, making it easier for Democrats to pass annual bills funding the government. It also could help [President] Biden, who is gearing up for an infrastructure push that he hopes will attract significant Republican support. With earmarking in place, bipartisanship could prove easier to achieve."

Certainly. Greasing palms always makes things easier. Of course, there are always those who will make anything sound reasonable, even wholesome. House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said she was pleased the Republicans have joined the Democrats in making way for this new/old plan of action. She said both parties know earmarks "will help our communities, particularly now as the pandemic has exposed so many needs." Yes, earmarks to fight the pandemic! As if $1.9 trillion in the latest rescue bill wasn't enough.

She also said the earmarks would put members' "firsthand knowledge of their districts to work on behalf of the people we represent." It almost sounds virtuous, when she phrases it like that.

Just don't look at the past, which is always bothersome. Recent history has shown that earmarks lead to corruption, waste and an addiction to more earmarks. It's not illegal. It's politics! You scratch my back, I'll watch yours. And look at the massive campaign materials these things can provide. Photo-ops galore!

Isn't that the whole point of going to Congress: To run for re-election?

Politico says the pressure is now on the U.S. Senate to follow suit. Its report says, "Senate Republicans have been generally more receptive to earmarks than their House counterparts," and that the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, Richard Shelby, has said he's supportive. This train seems to be rolling downhill. And picking up speed.

The nation is closing in on $30 trillion in debt. And it appears that number will grow until the train crashes. No political party in Washington wants to slow it.

Expect to hear about another bridge to nowhere soon enough; the original one in Alaska was funded with earmarks. Expect more corruption. And one day, expect your kids to complain about all this money that's been left to them to repay.

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