I am sorry that neither Brad Blumer of The New Republic nor Ezra Klein the American Prospect seem to really "get" the problem with earmarks. It’s not that earmarks are bad – it’s that they are never subjected to scrutiny, that they are part of the underbelly of the Congressional process that never sees the light of day, that there’s no opportunity for the public – much less Members of Congress – to evaluate them. It’s fundamentally undemocratic for a single member of Congress to allocate money without scrutiny of his colleagues and the public. The process stinks.
It should be fairly obvious that whatever happens in Congress in secret is fraught with the potential of corruption. That’s pretty much a truism today. The secrecy of earmarks increases public cynicism about the institution and its members.
If we had more transparency for earmarks then the public can decide whether their money is going for good purposes.
I, for one, believe in an activist government. I believe that that government has a key role in funding local community health centers, building bridges, and libraries, helping to expand hospitals and housing facilities, protecting the environment, etc. But I am outraged that some of the money is given – as disclosed by one intrepid citizen muckraker – to a former lobbyist who earns a government supported salary of $400,000.
Exposing earmarks, especially when done by citizens directly will strengthen democracy and the decisions our government makes. Disclosure will force lawmakers to be accountable for their actions. And that’s a very good thing.
Our solution is not to do away with earmarks but to disclose them, with lawmakers’ names attached. Then we can ask questions and maybe, we can get some answers.