Saturday, February 9, 2008

Congress Must Fix The Broken Earmark System

The following article was sent by Congresswoman Virginia Foxx. It is a very interesting article, please take the time to read it. I am very thankful to have Congresswoman Foxx watching out for us in Washington. Thank you Congresswoman Foxx!!!!

Economic stimulus? Try fixing the broken earmark system.
Foxx calls on Congress to kick its pork habit

By Congresswoman Virginia Foxx

The Congressional budget system is broken. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The example of the Defense Department serves as a cautionary tale. Pentagon officials recently said that they have received funding for $20 billion worth of earmarked projects that they had not requested or did not need. Who is the culprit? Look no farther than our earmark-laced, pork barrel budget.

In 2007 alone Congress tallied up 12,000 earmarks, costing taxpayers more than $19 billion. North Carolina taxpayers have a broken earmark system to thank for this wasteful spending. Last year I decided that the way Congress awards earmarks was so flawed that I could no longer participate in the practice.

While plenty of innocuous and seemingly praiseworthy projects receive a generous sum of federal largess, there are piles of outrageous earmarks that sneak through our flawed system. It’s gotten so bad that even the president has called on Congress to reduce earmarks and bring openness to the way money is spent. He suggested cutting the number of earmarks in half. That is not good enough.

Congress cannot keep operating within a flawed system. Earmarked spending is often airdropped into legislation in the dead of night, ensuring that no one can expose it to the light of day before it becomes law. Until the system is fixed, and until every earmark is open to direct challenge on the floor of the House, I will call on my colleagues to place a moratorium on all earmark spending.

The other downside to earmarks is the drag they put on the federal budget. At a time when we are discussing how best to keep the economy strong, wasteful, special interest spending is the last thing America needs to maintain a robust and growing economy.

Our historically strong economy showed signs of slowing at the end of 2007 and in January employers trimmed payrolls for the first time in 52 months. The specter of a bump in the economic road has Congress buzzing—and rightly so—about an economic stimulus package.

This is why I voted for an economic package with $150 billion in tax relief for more than 3.5 million North Carolinians and job-creating incentives for small businesses. This economic medicine, if delivered promptly and without pork, can help hold off a serious slowdown.

All of this talk about an economic stimulus plan implicitly endorses the idea that cutting taxes is good for the economy. That bodes well for the taxpayers of North Carolina. But earmark spending still represents an area where Congress could be saving taxpayers billions more. If abusive and wasteful earmarks were eliminated Congress could return billions of dollars to the taxpayers each year.

In 2007 Congress tried to earmark $1 million for a Woodstock museum. No one really knew why it was a federal priority, but there it was, plain as day in the legislation. While we can all agree that America should remember its history, I doubt we need a cool million to help jar the memories of those who attended the 1969 music festival.

There’s also the National Drug Intelligence Center. Sounds important, right? It turns out that, according to a federal government report, 19 other government agencies already do what it does. The Office of Management and Budget recommended shutting it down in 2005. U.S. News and World Report called it a “Drug War Boondoggle”. You guessed it. An influential Congressman earmarked $39 million to expand its operations in 2008.

Countless similar projects litter the budget, wasting taxpayer money at every turn. Imagine if we could eliminate them all. If Congress could reign in this runaway spending and return the savings to average Americans we would have an economic package that would stimulate our economy for years to come.

Editor’s Note: Virginia Foxx is a United States Representative from North Carolina’s Fifth Congressional District. You may contact her office toll free at 1-866-677-8968 or e-mail her from her website,

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