A few dedicated members of Congress, together with the Tea Party, have succeeded in making earmarks a dirty word. It has taken years, but victory is near. What is needed now is to build on this victory by targeting omnibus spending bills - those 2,000-page monsters that include everything but the kitchen sink.
The American people have come to recognize that earmarks are a form of legal bribery. Congressional leaders from both parties persuade members to vote for legislation that they don't want to vote for because they know it is not in the best interests of the constituents by offering sweeteners - special deals for the congressman's district. The special interests - business, labor or nonprofits - offer contributions to congressmen to add earmarks to legislation that favor their agendas. The congressmen bribe the voters to support them for multiple terms by promising that the longer they are in Congress, the greater their ability to bring home the bacon. Until recently, Americans didn't realize this process was a cycle paid for with their own tax dollars. They have now awakened and demand an end to the earmark spending scheme.
This is only a start, given that the more pernicious form of bribery is the omnibus bill. The leadership knows that, for example, there are congressmen who are loath to vote against salaries for the military. These congressmen don't want to have to face an opponent in the next election who can scream, "My opponent voted against paying our troops on the battlefield." The leadership adds all sorts of things to the military appropriations bill that have nothing to do with military appropriations, knowing that were these items brought up individually or as part of a relevant bill, they would be defeated.
There are those who would argue that if legislation is not packaged into omnibus bills, nothing would get done. Maybe that would be a good thing.
Avon Park, Fla.
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