Friday, December 17, 2010

Pork Wars

The next big government fight is setting up over earmarks. One gigantic spending bill has already died. This one is pitting the Tea Party against the people they elected. As I have said before, one person's pork is another person's investment in the community. Even Ron Paul has waffled on earmark reform.

Three things need to happen, but they won't:

1) Make Congress vote on each individual earmark. No more "omnibus" spending bills that force lawmakers to take all or nothing. If spending $300,000 for the Polynesian Voyaging Society in Hawaii is truly good for the entire nation, it needs to get a majority vote. Lumping the pork together allows your elected officials to hide behind a camouflage of disbursements they can honestly say they supported even as they held their nose at the rest because they had no way to cut it out. Furthermore, who wants to vote on an endless stream of earmarks? Breaking them up will cut the number down out of time constraints.

2) Give the president the line-item veto. If Congress won't reform its spending habits, it should be up to the President to step up and do it for them. Remember, the override still applies; if two-thirds of your lawmakers in the House and Senate approve an vetoed earmark, it goes through. All but six states have the line-item veto. Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all asked for it. It's high time we got it at the national level.

3) Pass a balanced budget amendment. Maybe we could push this off in the past, when our national debt was below $1 trillion. Not anymore. But I don't expect our leadership to spend with one hand and cut off the other one. Many have tried, few have succeeded. Let's make it a law and hold everybody to their waste-reduction promises.

As I said, I don't expect any of these three remedies to catch on. Remember, we're dealing with Congress.

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