One Man’s Earmarks is Another’s Pork

The
anonymous form of political pork known as "earmarks" is
one of
Nancy Pelosi‘s targets.
Her solution, to eliminate
anonymity, will be a good step. But the country could use a serious
debate on
the larger issues of pork and federalism.

The larger issue is our country’s
increasing departure from federalism, a departure loosely based on a
plastic
interpretation of the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution.
Our
Senators and Representatives have become too involved in regional and
local
matters that our Founding Fathers intended to be the domain of the
States. Look at the recent campaign literature of Sen. George Allen and Rep. Frank Wolf. Part of the accomplishments that they are proud of involves getting federal funding of local school and highway projects. That is good for our area, but is that what we want our Congress to be devoting its time to when there are so many national issues that compete for their time and attention?


The Federal Government enacts programs that send money to States under
the condition that they comply with criteria established by Federal Law.
Localities have become so dependent on Federal funding that they
hesitate to do
anything that would lose that funding, which often pays for the bulk of
their
capital expenses as well as a portion of their operating expenses.
Members of Congress have an incentive to grab a share of those
seemingly unlimited federal funds (loans on which the nation pays
interest) for projects
that benefit their constituencies. While constituents may thank their
local
members of Congress for “bringing home the bacon," the rest of the
nation may
call that “pork.” Another name for "earmarking" is "bringing home the
bacon."

Still, if not for the federal funding, would our local state and county
legislators have the political will to fund these projects through
local taxes and bonds? Also, should people living in less affluent states not have good schools and adequate highways just because their local tax bases are lower? That is why this issue needs to be debated and a national consensus reached, rather than just assuming that past Supreme Court decisions gave us the best way to govern.

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