Earmarks out of control

By Editorial Board

During the past several weeks, people across the world have watched in dismay as stocks plummeted, banks failed at record pace and the structure of our financial system threatened to crumble. Almost everyone agreed-action must be taken. That action came in what many Americans agree was a hard but necessary pill to swallow-the $700 billion rescue plan.

After its initial failure, the bill was revamped and passed by Congress on Oct. 3. But part of that so-called revamping has Americans from both parties furious with the actions of legislators. Their fury is in reaction to the outrageous number of earmarks included in the rescue plan. According to Politico.com, the bill included more than $150 billion in earmarks and tax credits.

Earmarks-also commonly referred to as pork, pork-barrel spending or sweeteners-are the way of Washington. They are spending measures inserted into legislation by members of Congress that direct taxpayer dollars to the legislators’ pet projects. It is common practice for pork to be thrown into almost every bill passed by legislators at local, state and federal levels. There are times when earmarks serve good purposes. Earmarks to help fund a rural firehouse or local library are examples of arguably beneficial pork-barrel spending. However, the sweeteners added to the rescue bill were not only egregious and excessive, but they were also a sign of how many legislators simply do not understand the concept of putting the American people before their political agendas.

As we all know, timing is everything. For U.S. citizens, this was one of the worst possible times to pack an important bill full of pork. However, in the eyes of many legislators, it was the perfect time. The pressure to pass this bill was so heavy that even outrageous earmarks were not going to stand in the way. Legislators who sought only to appease their constituents used this bill as a prime opportunity to ensure their pork was included, while legislators who vehemently oppose pork-barrel spending were forced to look the other way in order to ensure the passage of the rescue plan.

Many legislators took this opportunity and turned it into a pathetic game of “What’s in it for me?” Their greed, in some cases, was worse than the Grinch’s at Christmas. But even shoddier than their greed was the way in which they took advantage of the American people. Instead of putting a leash on their self-indulgence and adding pork to a bill at a time when the country was not in an economic crisis, they held the American people hostage until they made sure their cronies back home would give them a pat on the back for their hard work in getting pet projects passed.

It is time for Washington to wake up. The country is in a full-blown economic crisis, and people are watching their life savings disappear in front of their eyes. It is unconscionable to put political back-scratching before the needs of citizens whom Congress has an obligation to serve.