Here's something that hasn't gotten much attention that should. Late last week, OMB Watch released a valuable background brief on earmarks that gives a good overview of the earmarking process.
Dana Chasin says that the real issue for earmarks is the lack of transparency in the process that has led to corruption. The most effective earmark reforms, Dana writes, would be timely disclosure, revealing to the public what earmarks are being proposed by what lawmakers. He makes a strong case that an outright ban on earmarks won't reduce federal spending...and that really shouldn't be the real focus since earmarked funds are a tiny fraction of the federal budget.
We at the Sunlight Foundation agree that transparency is the needed reform. The Honest Leadership and Government Act of 2007 made some important reforms by providing some of the needed transparency, particularly for the House, but there is so much more that needs to be done.
This document from OMB Watch provides some very useful guidance a set of reforms that could be achievable first steps and that might actually provide some transparency and accountability. Those are good initial goals and they might just prove sufficient.Continue reading
Dana Chasin, senior advisor at OMB Watch, has posted at the watchdog groups' Budget Blog a two-part profile of the new website of the non-partisan House-Senate Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT). Dana writes that it's "mostly a look-and-feel improvement" with little new content, however, you no longer "feel as though you're entering a 19century crypt when you log into it."
The 10-member committee, established by Congress in 1926, investigates, reviews and issues reports on federal tax policy. He lauds the JCT for bringing the mysterious methodologies of revenues estimates into clearer view," even though they add that it's only a start. Which legislation the JCT chooses to provide estimates for and the timeframe involved deserve a more thorough explanation. "This process is opaque even to members of the Senate," Dana writes, and "the discreet Delphic charm of the JCT remains fundamentally intact."Continue reading