Earmarks Are Back, and They’re Just as Sleazy and Secretive As Ever
After a decadelong ban on the practice, members of Congress are once again loading up legislation with pork-barrel spending that the rest of us have to pay for.
The $1.5 trillion omnibus government funding bill that cleared the Senate on Thursday night (after passing the House earlier this week) marks the return of earmarks, spending that individual members of Congress can direct to their home districts. According to The Hill, citing a report being circulated among Senate Republicans, the 2,741-page bill includes more than 4,000 earmarks.
That includes items like $3 million for a Palo Alto History Museum in California, according to a partial list of earmarks in the new legislation being compiled by Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative nonprofit. “The city is highly affluent and home to nine Forbes 400 billionaires,” the group asks. “Why can’t this be paid for with local or private dollars?”
A fair question, and one that could be equally asked of just about any earmark. Do federal taxpayers need to fund $800,000 for “artist lofts” in Pomona, California? Is there no other way to raise $3 million for a museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi in Texas or $500,000 to build a new ski jump in New Hampshire or $1.6 million to ensure “equitable growth of shellfish aquaculture” in Rhode Island? (Actually, yeah, it might be tough to attract private funding for that last one.)
According to the documents made public by Braun’s office, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) appears to be one of the big winners in the latest earmark sweepstakes. Schumer’s name is attached to 142 different projects, including $1.1 million for Sullivan County’s “rail trail,” $3 million for the Brooklyn Museum, and $1.5 million for capital improvements at St. George Theatre.
Yes, each of those items is only a few drops in the ocean of government spending, but they add up. And the bigger problem with earmarks has always been that they are s
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