McCain’s Earmark Madness

The good news is that even though Barack Obama is the President of the United States, John McCain isn’t.

His stupid earmark crusade has now become the central issue of Republican politics, where suddenly earmarks are the only problem, earmarks are the reason we have such huge deficits, earmarks are the mark of the beast, the sign of the devil, the locus of all that is evil in the natural and unnatural world.

Does John McCain even begin to understand what an earmark is? (If you want to stop reading here, I’ll skip ahead and tell you the answer: nope.)

In case, perhaps, there are some out there as ignorant as Beavis McCain, the first thing you need to understand is that earmarks DO NOT ADD ONE DIME OF ADDITIONAL MONEY TO THE FEDERAL BUDGET. Got that? No? Then I will repeat it without capital letters. Earmarks don’t add to the budget. At all. Not a penny. John McCain is either too stubborn or too stupid to understand this. (Probably both.)

Do I have your attention now?

Some context is important here. McCain and Co. are forgetting that the Constitution gives the power of the purse to the Congress, not the president.

Indeed, when the Constitution was first drafted, the Founding Fathers presumed that the most powerful political entity in the country would be the House of Representatives. All spending bills were to originate in the House, with little or no input from the Executive Branch.

Yet today, the balance of power has shifted drastically. Now it’s the White House that submits the budget for Congress to approve with an up-or-down vote. Any budgetary directions that originate with the Congress are labeled “earmarks,” and it has become politically fashionable to view such direction as inherently wasteful or corrupt.

It’s important to examine the underlying premise here.

When the Founders crafted the American experiment, they believed that those closest to the people were those who would spend public money most wisely. If we ignore the voice of Congress by eliminating earmarks, then we give President Obama absolute power to determine how federal money ought to be spent.

That’s unacceptable. And it’s stupid besides.

“But wait, Stallion!” says Beavis. “We shouldn’t be spending money on all these goofy little pet projects! We should cut the budget at the top!”

Well, yes. That’s what he should be saying. But he’s not.

The question in Washington should be “how much money should we spend?” But Beavis skims over that question. The money’s being spent. So who should determine how it’s spent? Beavis answers that question thinking he’s answering the first one. Whether he realizes it or not, he’s giving that power solely to the president. He’s acting as if Obama would actually make his budget smaller if all earmarks were eliminated.

Which he wouldn’t.

So, instead, we end up eating our own over an issue that’s tangential at best to the problems we face, and in doing so, we cede more power and authority to a chief executive who wants to fundamentally restructure the nation’s economy in truly frightening ways.

To quote Homer Simpson, democracy just doesn’t work.

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