In Defense of Earmarks

If there’s one aspect of governing I would really like some profile in courage to set the record straight on, it’s earmarks. Yes there’s a certain amount of procedural corruption around them, but that’s a matter of process that can be rectified in the Congress. More substantively, earmarks allow for a certain amount of macro planning in spending in which the federal government can make sure projects mesh together, instead of just handing money to states to use at their discretion, possibly in counterproductive ways. Now maybe you don’t want all of the planning done at the federal level, or at least not by members of Congress looking out for their own fortunes, but a blended system still requires earmarks, not cutting them out entirely.

And if you take the racial aspect out of this story, you’ve got an even better case for them:

“He can’t come up with a solid argument” in favor of the earmarks, Sanford said.

 

President-elect Obama has said he wants a stimulus that is free of earmarks.

Clyburn, in comments made to Roll Call, called for allowing federal money included in the stimulus to be sent back home to lawmakers’ districts. Sanford and others say that’s an end-around that would allow earmarks in the legislation without calling them such.

The money would bypass governors’ offices and instead go straight to communities. Clyburn disagrees with Sanford, who opposes accepting that federal money.

Clyburn’s issue here is pretty straight forward; Sanford is a libertarian wingnut who doesn’t think the federal government should do much of anything, and he puts his money, no pun intended, where his mouth is by refusing to accept federal funds for South Carolina. Sanford even refused federal money to keep the state’s unemployment fund operating when it was about to dry up completely, which was too wingnutty even for South Carolina. So what Clyburn is looking for is a way to direct the money to his constituents and the people of South Carolina in a way that bypasses the wingnut Governor who clearly doesn’t much care for the public welfare of South Carolina citizens. Hardly a corrupt position on his part, but one that underscores that these things aren’t usually a good vs. evil matter (anywhere outside of John McCain’s imagination anyway), and demonstrates yet again why Democrats shouldn’t acquiesce to wingnut talking points.

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