Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Understanding Ron Paul: Earmarks

By Dan Beaulieu 
Written by: Regulate the Regulators

 "I am an imperfect messenger, but the message is perfect"  –  Ron Paul

One thing is certain of Dr. Ron Paul, he is not a sound-bite candidate. That is, he often speaks over the heads of voters which causes a lack of understanding. It is in my personal opinion that Ron Paul cannot be understood in the 30 seconds allocated to him in debates. His ideas must be studied; however, once one does understand Dr. Paul, they often stick around.

For this reason I present to you my series:

Understanding Ron Paul 

In Defense of Ron Paul: Earmarks

Written by: Regulate the Regulators

Many people have brought up Ron Paul's manifold requests for earmarks to be appropriated for his district as evidence of his "hypocrisy." (You can see a list of these requests for 2007 here.) This charge is easily refuted.

First of all, what is an earmark?
Most often, it is pet projects that lawmakers seek for their districts and states. It can include road projects, water and sewer funds, community development grants, military base improvements and grants to local hospitals, universities and nonprofit organizations. 
Earmarks can be tax breaks aimed at a specific company or research grants for a single employer. Such companies often reward lawmakers with campaign cash. In the case of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., it was bribes. (1)
How do they work?
In the case of appropriations bills, there is an application process. Lawmakers fill out forms and say which projects they want the most. Staff and lawmakers scrutinize to make sure everybody's following the rules and to weed out bad ideas. The party controlling the House or Senate gets about 60 percent of the earmarks allocated to each chamber. (1)
Some rice farmers from Congressman Ron Paul's district were in his office the other day, asking for this and that from the federal government. The affable Republican from south Texas listened nicely, then forwarded their requests to the appropriate House committee. It may or may not satisfy their requests in some bill dispensing largesse to agricultural interests. Then Paul will vote against the bill. (2)
Do they increase the budget?
The misconception seems to be that members of Congress put together a bunch of requests for project funding, add them all together and come up with a budget. The truth is, [...] [t]he total level of spending is determined by the Congressional leadership and the appropriators before any Member has a chance to offer any amendments. Members' requests are simply recommendations to allocate parts of that spending for certain items in that members' district or state. If funds are not designated, they revert to non-designated spending controlled by bureaucrats in the executive branch. In other words, when a designation request makes it into the budget, it subtracts funds out of what is available to the executive branch and bureaucrats in various departments, and targets it for projects that the people and their representatives request in their districts. (3)
[...] [C]utting the number of earmarks does not cut spending. An earmark is a congressional provision that directs federal agencies to spend funds already authorized on specific projects. If the funds aren’t earmarked, the agencies can spend the money any way they see fit. That is, the executive branch, rather than Congress, will determine how the taxpayer’s money is spent. This point cannot be stressed enough because even the writers at the Wall Street Journal do not understand it. After quoting a spokesman from Paul’s office reminding them that earmarks do not directly increase spending, the WSJ reports, "On the other hand, good libertarians should want to start cutting somewhere." Didn’t Paul’s office just point out that cutting earmarks does not cut spending? (4)
The Brookings Institution’s Paul Cullinan, research director of the Budgeting for National Priorities Project [says] [...] that earmarks "might be an allocation issue" rather than a spending issue. And Scott Lilly, a senior fellow with the liberal Center for American Progress, told us that "there’s no evidence that if you took earmarks out, federal spending would go down." (5)
Is Ron Paul a hypocrite?
On net, therefore, the quid pro quo of earmark trading is likely to increase government spending. Yet considering that Dr. Paul always votes "no" on the appropriations bills he requests earmarks for – as his critics concede – he is not involved in this negative aspect of the earmarking process. No amount of earmarks promised to him will convince him to vote "yes" on the bill. (4)
You know, the big issue is the spending. If you don’t like the spending, vote against the bill. (6)
[...] Ron Paul's claim that he is meeting two obligations is a position I wish most people in congress took. He has a duty to represent his district. He also has a duty to protect the constitution. (7)
Are earmarks a large portion of federal spending?
[...] [A]ccording to most estimates, earmarks constitute less than 2 percent of the [2009 Obama Spending Act's] total spending. (8)
Are earmarks bad?
Because earmarks are funded from spending levels that have been determined before a single earmark is agreed to, with or without earmarks the spending levels remain the same. Eliminating earmarks designated by Members of Congress would simply transfer the funding decision process to federal bureaucrats rather then elected representatives. (9)
[...] [I]t is the responsibility of the Congress to earmark. That’s our job. We’re supposed to tell the people how we’re spending the money. Not to just deliver it in the lump sum to the executive branch and let them deal with it. And then it’s dealt with behind the scenes. [...] Earmarks really allow transparency and we know exactly where the money is being spent. (6)
It's kind of like if your spouse says she's going to the store and will purchase $100 of groceries. You request that she picks up steak for one of the meals. She still spends $100, but you've at least had your say on what you get to eat. Eliminating earmarks takes all of the spending decisions out of elected officials and puts them in the hands of unelected officials. (10)
[T]he drafters of the Constitution gave Congress the powers of the purse because the drafters feared that allowing the branch of government charged with executing the laws to also write the federal budget would concentrate too much power in one branch of government. (11)
Do we need earmark reform?
[...] [A]ll members should support efforts to bring greater transparency to the earmarking process. However, we must not allow earmarking reform to distract us from what should be our main priority — restricting federal spending by returning the government to its constitutional limitations. (11)
In an already flawed system, earmarks can at least allow residents of Congressional districts to have a greater role in allocating federal funds - their tax dollars - than if the money is allocated behind locked doors by bureaucrats. So we can be critical of the abuses in the current system but we shouldn't lose sight of how some reforms may not actually make the system much better. (12)
The real problem, and one that was unfortunately not addressed in 2007's earmark dispute, is the size of the federal government and the amount of money we are spending in these appropriations bills. Cutting even a million dollars from an appropriations bill that spends hundreds of billions will make no appreciable difference in the size of government, which is doubtless why politicians and the media are so eager to have us waste our time on [earmarks]. (13)
Read more informative articles from: Regulate The Regulators

Back to Understanding Ron Paul Index

No comments:

Post a Comment