April 17, 2008

Where's "the rest of the story"?

I was sorry to see the Rapid City Journal provide lots of ink as something of an apologist for Congressional earmarks (Tue. 4/15/08). Their front-page story by Kevin Woster and a sidebar regarding just how “essential” earmarks are for South Dakota missed the point many of us would like to see explored further. I expressed that view in my Oink-Oink posting a couple of weeks ago.

Earmarks tend to avoid the rigors and scrutiny of the budget process, and they are far more subject to the whims of individual senators and representatives – particularly those in power. That’s why it seems half of the public construction initiatives in West Virginia are named for Senator Robert Byrd.

“Whims,” of course, can be a part of political horse-trading. A less delicate way of describing them would be political pay-offs.

Even when visiting the
Congressional Pig Book web site, which is stuffed with information about questionable earmarks, I am surprised at the apparent legitimacy of many projects. Certainly, most of those described in the Rapid City Journal seem worthy of funding – particularly to us South Dakotans.

But what about projects that smack blatantly of favoritism and appear to be highly questionable? Just how do they compare with projects that were "cut" from the formal budgeting process?

Perhaps the Rapid City Journal would do well to dig a bit deeper on all earmarks within their circulation area. At the very least, explore the “short-cut” process that goes with earmarks, and shine a bit of journalistic light upon this unsavory process.

Worthwhile projects should be able to withstand the rigors of the budgetary process – whether they’re in West Virginia, Alaska, Mississippi…….or South Dakota.

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