Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Earmarks only became prominent when GOP took House in 1995, so Republicans are the party of earmarks

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Originally published on BuzzFlash.comon Fri, 03/13/2009 – 1:19pm

One of the funniest words in the current political lexicon is “earmark.” You check the mirror and you can’t spot any damage to your ears. Yet, you hear the Republicans cry “we don’t like the earmarks” even as they are putting them into bills in Congress.

The reports of these earmarks, which actually take up small amounts of each spending bill, are limited in focus. You get the impression that earmarks have always happened. But it’s not true.

This history from a 2006 article contains this choice bit of information:

Just take a look at the history of the Defense Appropriations Bill: Taxpayers for Common Sense calculated that the 1970 Defense Appropriations Bill had a dozen earmarks; the 1980 bill had 62 earmarks; and by 2005, the defense bill had skyrocketed to 2,671 earmarks.

And Paul Kane of The Washington Post noted in his paper’s online political chat:

“… it’s worth noting that the republic also lasted 200 years without earmarks making up much of the legislative talk. In the early ’90s there were only about 500 earmarks, now there are more than 14,000 (down a few thousand from their hey-day in the middle of this decade).”

The Democratic Party was in control of the House of Representatives from 1954 to 1995. If Kane’s assessment is accurate, the earmarks grew when Republicans took control of the House. They have certainly grown in recent years, and in the more than two years since the Democrats have been back in control, the earmarks’ growth continues.

But even as Kane points out, the current earmark figure has been reduced from the last throes of Republican rule in the House.

This article from The New York Times from December 2007 points out the reduction under Democratic control:

The number of earmarks in the sweeping spending bill is actually a reduction from past years, although the exact amount is being debated. Taxpayers for Common Sense estimates a decline of about 25 percent.

“That is absolutely a step in the right direction,” said Ryan Alexander, president of the watchdog group. “Earmarks exploded over the last decade, and it will take more than one year of cuts to prove that Congress is serious about reforming the process.”

If we were able to go so long without earmarks, can’t we get rid of them that much easier?

And if the same Republicans who were in charge when earmarks skyrocketed are now whining about too many earmarks (while they still use them), isn’t it time for Democrats to call their bluff and get rid of earmarks? True, Republicans will whine about something else, but Democrats can show independent voters that they are serious about economic reform. After all, the Republican Party is the party of earmarks.


Written by democracysoup

March 13, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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