Argument: Earmarks allow elected representatives to exercise local judgment

Issue Report: Earmarks


Rahm Emanuel. “Don’t Get Rid of Earmarks”. New York Times. August 24, 2007 – I happen to believe that I know more about the needs of the people I represent than some bureaucrat in Washington, an ideologue in the White House, or worse, a bureaucrat with orders from a White House ideologue.

T.M. Sell. “A few kind words for earmarks”. Cross Cut. February 9, 2009 – for the most part, the officials charged with dispensing stimulus dollars will do the best they can with what they have, because they are in fact closer to the people and will catch hell if they don’t do their jobs. That is our system of government: federalism, which divides and shares power between the states and the national government. Amazingly, it still works. It’s not perfect; it never will be. But it lumps along with remarkable resiliency.

Jonathan Rauch. “Earmarks Are A Model, Not A Menace”. National Journal. March 14, 2009 – “Political discretion can be abused, and one would certainly not want most federal spending to be subject to it. But, provided that transparency is assured, shouldn’t there be a place in government for elected officials to exercise judgment in the use of taxpayer money? In fact, if you wanted to create a nonbureaucratic, transparent system of rapid-response grants for pressing local concerns, you would come up with something very much like today’s earmarking system (and you’d call it ‘reinventing government’).”

Stephanie Grace. “In Defense of Earmarks”. The Times-Picayune. March 12, 2009 – A recent analysis of the $410 billion spending bill just approved by Congress, issued by the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, placed both Louisiana senators in the top five of earmark sponsors.

Does that mean Louisiana’s voters are up in arms, or that they should be? Hardly.

The bill includes things like $8.6 million for Louisiana Coastal Area Ecosystems Restoration projects, $5.7 million for Morganza to the Gulf hurricane protection, $16.5 million for maintenance and operations of the Gulf Coast Intracoastal Waterway. Not exactly frivolous, in most local eyes.

Nor is the $6.6 million for Formosan termite research now heading New Orleans’ way, even though anti-earmark purist Sen. John McCain has singled it out as an example of unjustified spending. Perhaps McCain doesn’t know, or care, how much of a threat those bugs present to the area’s building stock.

That’s the point. Earmarks, if used properly, give power to those who do know the local landscape.

In the just-completed spending bill, Landrieu ranked third with $332 million in earmarks, which should come as no surprise, given that she’s an unabashed earmark fan.

“I advocate for these and other Louisiana projects because they are important to the people and communities in my state, ” Landrieu said. “There will always be a need to direct appropriations dollars based on the reality on the ground.”