Earmarks unfair, not dispersed evenly

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 4, 2008

The U.S. Senate rejected an earmark moratorium last month by a margin of 71-29.

All three presidential contenders voted in favor of the moratorium, knowing it had no realistic chance of coming to fruition.

Also known as pork-barrel projects, they will take up a significant portion of the $3 trillion 2009 federal budget. The restriction or elimination of this type of federal spending is often debated but never resolved.

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Some lawmakers defend the use of earmarks, indicating they are informed of the needs of their constituents and they can direct funds to those areas. They also indicate that earmarks improve the quality of life for those affected and that they create jobs.

They also argue that the elimination of earmarks would not necessarily mean those projects would go unfunded because they could still be funded by federal agencies and grants. And it is true that cutting earmarks is not the magic formula for more responsible federal spending.

The problem, however, with earmarks is that they are not proportionate. If beneficiaries are key supporters in home districts or metropolitan areas that have more representatives, then it goes without saying that districts in rural areas — like Ohio’s 6th District — do not get an equal share of dollars.

That is not an indictment on the representatives, just the reality of the political system. They are all sent to Washington to do the best they can to help the constituents they represent.

But as long as earmarks exist, there will be competition among lawmakers for these projects and that climate is not conducive for responsible spending.