April 3, 2008

Earmarks Top Ten! - Oink Oink!

The end justifies the means. As long as we go home with the bacon.

That seems to be the stance taken by our South Dakota congressional delegation to criticism that South Dakota ranks in the top 10 states for receiving federal earmarks. The rankings are the handiwork of the Citizens Against Government Waste, which annually identifies political pork in their “
Congressional Pig Book.” It's worth reading.

Senators John Thune and Tim Johnson along with Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin wasted no time in defending earmarks. The Rapid City Journal this morning (4/3/08) said Herseth Sandlin agreed with her counterparts in the Senate that earmarks pay for “essentials,” not waste, in South Dakota.

It is apparently lost on Herseth Sandlin and our Senators that it’s not the projects that are funded to which many of us necessarily object, it’s HOW they’re chosen and funded. Like it or not, earmarks are outside an appropriate budgetary process. Simply put, earmarks are bad public policy.

If earmarks are the only way South Dakota and other states can obtain legitimate federal funding for “essentials,” we are, indeed, in deep political do-do. And, unfortunately, members of Congress will never apologize for “bringing home the bacon,” much less change the way they do the public's business.

They’ve not yet discovered that it’s tainted and stinks to high heaven.

Earmarks often are the means of political pay-offs, favoritism, and good-ol'-boy backroom deals. Those with seniority are most adept at obtaining earmarks, thus adding clout to the notion that the only way South Dakota (and other states) can get their “fair share” of federal funding is by continuing to re-elect incumbents to deliver the goods.

In short, we are slipping even further down the slopes of good government. We become less a nation of laws and more a nation of men (with apologies to Rep. Herseth Sandlin, because she’s deservedly a part of the club.)

We may not be able to alter the ban on federal term limits, but this sad situation points to the need for it – and an obvious need to overhaul the budgeting process in Washington, D.C.

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