Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Appropriators buck earmark ban

No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law --Article I, Section 9, Clause 7

An article published today in The Politico, Appropriators buck earmark ban, highlights the growing debate over earmarks in Congress. At first, I was just going to link my post back to the constitutional clause authorizing the expenditure of federal funds. But, I was sidetracked, and honestly, irritated when, I came across this quote:

“It doesn’t do anything for fiscal discipline,” said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who serves on the Appropriations Committee. “It’s a phantom idea. It’s one of those feel-good amendments that makes us feel like we’re doing the Lord’s work.”

The problem with Sen. Gregg, is that he (and others) has forgotten the intentions of the founding fathers. In a letter dated January 1, 1802, Thomas Jefferson outlined his understanding of the First Amendment in correspondence to the Danbury Baptist association. In the letter, Jefferson stated, "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state." In other words, doing the Lord's work should be left to your own time. I applaud of all of you that generously donate your time and money to charitable work. However, I firmly believe that charity is a function that should be left to private citizens, companies and organizations not the federal government.

Now -- back to my original intent. The Constitution affirmatively provides the legislative branch with the powers of the purse. What I propose is something of a litmus test for congressional earmarks. If a Senator or Representative can state that all 50 states can benefit from the expenditure of funds authorized by their respective earmarks, the spending should be considered. However, if the benefit of the spending is linked directly to a state, or in most cases, a finite number of individuals, the earmark should not be considered.

I have come to this conclusion because I feel that:
1. The government spends too much money on wasteful projects.
2. The citizens of the United States should benefit from the taxes that are paid.

In the US, the states have traditionally been the laboratories of innovation. The motivational enterprise of the individual states to succeed will likely push the states to fund their own projects in the absence of federal funds. For example, the controversy in California regarding whether or not the state has the right to implement its own environmental programs. The state of California has every right to implement their own programs funded by the citizens of California and not by the citizens of Nebraska. If California is correct and the experiment works, the state of California will benefit from their initiative. However, if they are wrong, the citizens have the right to vote their officials out of office. At this moment, I do not have the right to vote Senator Stevens out office when he proposes Alaskan earmarks. However, he has the right to spend my money.

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