Jesse Jackson Jr. defends earmarks
Buried in this story in the Sunday Tribune was this disturbing defense of controversial congressional earmarks (aka pork) by Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.:
During these tough economic times, Democrats shouldn't shy away for one moment from their responsibility and duty to improve schools, rebuild roads, retrain workers, provide healthcare and invest in the people and communities in their districts.
The quote appeared in a story reporting how House Republicans have called a moratorium on earmarks--special funding for individual lawmaker's pet project dropped into unrelated legislation--to demonstrate fiscal responsibility during the federal budget crisis. The story also reports that people who benefit from earmarks aren't so happy.
There's more than one problem with defense thrown up by Jackson and the others. Earmarks:
- Have nothing to do with "these tough economic times." Earmarks flow in good times and in bad.
- Sometimes are nothing more than pay-offs for favors done for the lawmaker.
- Short circuit the normal legislative process, attached to sometimes unrelated legislation.
- Violate the idea of orderly and prioritized spending; they simply reflect the power or skill of individual lawmakers to make political deals that advance their own careers.
- Create an authoritarian power structure. Members who "don't play ball" or "go along to get along" are punished by the withholding earmarks from uncooperative lawmakers.
It's not just lawmakers who are at fault. Lawmakers like earmarks because we--the public--like them, no matter how much we say we dislike them. For every earmarks, there's someone who sees some good in it--whether it's a grant for the Chicago Botanic Gardens or the creation of a cowgirl museum. They always be justified because "they create jobs."
Truth is, earmarks represent a free-for-all that shorts some important needs and corrupts the political process..