There's always something more to learn about Congressional earmarks. Today I found myself in the mood to tackle the heavy stuff found in the newsletter "Waste Watch" put out by the Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW).
After reading only two of the 16 pages, I was already dejected over their findings. I knew about earmarks but the April issue revealed much more.
It started with the unveiling of the 2008 Congressional Pig Book which details pork earmark projects worth $17.2 billion.
(As an aside, I don't like the use of the words "pig" and "pork" in this way. CAGW also has a "swine" blog. I think it is unfair to the pigs who have been maligned. One myth of many I can dispell right now. Pigs don't relish mud baths. Given the choice of mud or a clean water pool, they chose the pool each time. I found this diversion necessary because I don't like to see any animal maligned without basis in fact and the pig sadly is used badly here.)
The newsetter also ran a Washington Post article by columnist Jeff Birnbaun revealing the discovery of a six-page pro-earmark memorandum circulating on Capitol Hill. Trying to find the source of this memo, Birnbaun reported that he got an e-mail from the president of the Ferguson Group, a lobbying outfit for local governments, informing him he had his staff prepare the memo to "tell its clients why 'they tended to get more money from congressional earmarks than from federal agencies
left to their own devices.'"
CAGW Media Director Leslie Paige in a post about the memo on CAGW's blog attacked the memo's central arguments that congressional earmarking is "more democratic than the agency decision-reported making process." She asks sarcastically why "when the congressional earmarking process is just so darned equitable and just, don't we permit those selfless, noble lawmakers to earmark the whole darn federal buget?...."
I felt elated reading her remarks. I am ashamed of a Congress which allows this shameful procedure to continue. But no one seems to have the will or courage to stop it. To his credit, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) offered an amendment to impose a one-year moratorium on earmarks. The measure failed by a vote of 29-71.
Another woman with a common sense approach to a problem also appeared in this same issue. In a guest column, "Thwarting Sanity in Medicaid," Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, notes that legislation is making its way through Congress with the intent of injecting some fiscal prudence in the vast Medicaid program. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services have identified about seven loopholes open to waste and illegal use of Medicaid funds. This legislation would close them.
The White House agreed that the loopholes must be closed but the House of Representatives who see themselves as "protectors" of Medicaid are trying to block implementation of the new rules.
The GAO found that many states are gaming the system for their own non-Medicaid uses. One state was found using the funds to help finance its education programs and other states were discovered using funds for other non-Medicaid purposes.
It all leaves one wondering if there are any honest people in government.