One of the promises of the present Congress was more open and ethical handling of Government Business. Lack of Government Transparency leads to lack of Government Trust. This was one of reasons the Republicans lost majority control of the Congress at the hands of the Voters last November. The voters elected a Democratic Majority. Many Democrats were elected, in part, on promises to bring Ethics Reform to Washington, D.C. But have they? Apparently not. The Democrats were elected to a majority and discovered “Business as Usual” was a good thing. As a result, Congressional Approval Ratings stand at the 20% level. That’s at least 10 points BEHIND President Bush. If a candidate got only 1 out of every 5 votes cast, it would be called a crushing landslide defeat.
There are several issues contributing to these poor numbers. The Iraq War, Ethics in Government and something called Earmarks. Earmarks are defined by the Government Office of Management and Budget (OMB) thus:
“OMB defines earmarks as funds provided by the Congress for projects or programs where the congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the Administration to control critical aspects of the funds allocation process.”
Sounds a lot like Government Double Speak. The essence is that restrictions are placed on some of the money appropriated for a project which benefits only a few (”Special Interests”). (IE A bridge to Nowhere which benefits 50 people or funding for redundant/unnecessary “Home District” projects) Voters generally do not like this waste of taxpayers dollars- our money. To make matters worse, these Earmarks (Pork) were usually added to bills and voted on in Congress without disclosure to the House Members. Who requested the Earmark and for what purpose is generally not revealed until after passage of the bill to which it is attached and therefore too late to be changed. This is the way the Previous Congress acted and was something the Democrats promised to change once they took control.
I’m not arguing that Earmarks need to be eliminated. But non-transparent Earmarks are Pork. It is Pork which should be eliminated. Don’t the Taxpayers have a right to know how their money is spent? Every single penny of it? Yes, and there is some change being made which indicates a reason for hope and help. Recently some State Elected Officials (Legislators, Treasurers, Governors etc.) have been elected because they promised to disclose formerly hidden expenditures.
Pork Project by KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL in today’s on-line issue of the OpinionJournal of the Wall Street Journal details some of this State Leadership. Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Hawaii have enacted legislation which makes Government Spending more transparent. There are at least 10 other states which are in the process of enacting similar transparency legislation. Congress should take notice. Again, Earmarks don’t need to be eliminated. But they do need to be visible. Visible not just to the Congressional Members Before they Vote, but also to all taxpayers. Visible so we the Taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill can see where this Pork goes. Bringing the waste in Government to the light of day, may cause our Government to be better Stewards of our money.
The Democrats have not lived up to their promises and if they expect to be re-elected, they must. Personally I’m for term limits, but that’s a subject for another time.