Tag Archives: Earmarks

Only 11 Things Wrong with Congress? Part 2

26 Feb

Continuing from part 1[1]  of Mr. Newman’s list of 11 things wrong with Congress[2] we pickup with number five.

5. Lobbyists

Now here’s one the masses get riled up about but don’t understand fully. Mr. Newman gives the impression all lobbyists are wealthy, entitled people who can bend a Congressman to their will by using money and power. However, that’s not the truth. What is a lobbyist? He or she is someone who, by definition lobbies. So what is lobbying? It is simply “the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies.”[3] In other words it is someone who goes to a representative and has them listen to their issue, cause or point of view on a subject. Anyone in this country could be a lobbyist. If someone has called up a representative to make their voice heard about an issue, guess what, they are a lobbyist. Unpaid for sure, but a lobbyist nonetheless. Granted not all lobbyists are good or do good work. But there are plenty groups of lobbyists who stand up for people who might not otherwise be heard. All lobbyists are not wrong. How some operate and how some get around the rules is wrong. That should be the focus of where something needs to be fixed.

 

6. Earmarks

Remember when these little additions of spending were big news? Many people had never heard of them before but did not know what exactly they were. In Congress they are “loosely defined as guarantees of federal expenditures to particular recipients in appropriations-related documents.”[4] There are a couple of types of ear marks:

Hard earmarks, or “hardmarks”, found in legislation, and soft earmarks, or “softmarks”, found in the text of congressional committee reports. Hard earmarks are legally binding, whereas soft earmarks are not but customarily are acted upon as if they were binding.

They have become synonymous with “pork barrel” legislation.[5]  There are some politicians who speak out against earmarks, but their actions tell a different story. One of the most visible is Ron Paul. He ran for President on reducing government spending and fiscal responsibility, yet he still played the game of earmarks while denouncing them. Mr. Newman is right about needing to eliminate earmarks. Especially when they have nothing to do with the bill being proposed and voted upon. Attaching an earmark for improving dog catching equipment to a bill on funding the military should be as illegal as it is unethical.

 

7. Speeches to nobody

Hearing a Representative speak can be informative and energizing. It can also put one to sleep better than any insomnia medicine on the market. Many people see a clip of a representative on the new speaking to Congress about a subject they too are passionate about. The impression is the Congressman is working to sway the other representatives to see his or her side of the argument. However, as Mr. Newman points out, there are times when that representative is speaking to an almost empty, or entirely empty room but is shown on C-SPAN. Seems like a huge waste of time and energy. And in some cases it is. There are times though, when it can be advantageous to use the empty chamber to give an impassioned speech which will hopefully get picked up by a media outlet. By doing so a the issue is given a voice. What is the cost to us the taxpayers for these empty house speeches? Probably not much of any. The Congressman is already getting paid and money is already being spent on having the chamber open at the time. The only real cost is the time which the representative could be using doing something else. But sometimes having them bloviate to an empty room keeps them busy from doing other foolish things. That might be money well spent.

 

Coming up in part three are the final four on Mr. Newman’s list of 11 things wrong with congress. Two are a stretch but the last two clear problems which have been facing Congress decades.

 

References

  1. Only 11 Things Wrong with Congress? Part 1 – Clearly Wrong
  2. 11 Things Wrong With Congress – US News
  3. Lobbying – Wikipedia
  4. Earmark (politics) – Wikipedia
  5. How Congressional Earmarks and Pork-Barrel Spending Undermine Stateand Local Decisionmaking – The Heritage Foundation
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