Bring Back Ear Marks

Ear Marks, the time honored procedure where a Congress member writes into legislation some provision that normally brings money to his/her district or often to a specific benefactor.  It makes any reasonable person gag to think that laws can have provisions which hide in the bills verbiage that have nothing to do with bill’s title or intent.  But the ways of Congress are sometimes mysterious.

With the rise of the Tea Party, “ear marks” became a bad word.  For sure many ear marks were ridiculous when isolated and highlighted.  But they served a purpose.

Congress members seek to be reelected.  Reelection usually requires a well off campaign fund as well as local discouragement to other potential challengers.  Bringing home the “pork” was the most proven method.

Ear Marks while sounding awful (and truly were shameful) did not cost a lot when compared to the size of yearly government expenditures or even when considering the annual deficit.  Ear Marks, however, did foster a spirit of “compromise” as well as a focus on must do legislation.  As long as there was an expectation that each Congress member would get their turn to dip into the public trough, Congress members could be kept in line.  Hmmm.  Oh, for the good old days.

Today it is less important to bring pork to the home district (although Defense appropriation still do this).  Today there are PACs which dump huge amounts of special interest money on Congress members desks… providing they are aligned with the ideological bent of their special interest supporters.

There has been much criticism of President Obama.  “He won’t engage with the GOP”, it is said.  These critics predict that there will not be any progress in Washington until the President engages.  Hmmm.

What should the President say?  Should he point out that the US is the only modern country that does not provide health care for all its residents and the health care it does provide is twice as expensive as other countries?  Should the President point out that illegal immigration is in fact a “Mexican” problem and that there are straight forward ways to gain control of new immigrants?  Should he say that undocumented immigrants already living here, say for more than five years and who have no criminal record, ought be allowed to become citizens on both humanitarian and pragmatic grounds (cost to send back and children who are citizens)?  Should the President say (again) the deficit could (and should) be closed with a balanced/shared approach involving government spending cuts (including entitlements) as well as new taxes?  Or, should the President emphasize that those bridges and roads which are crumbling are essential to a healthy economy and we need to find ways to maintain and improve them?

Just saying this again, I agree, is not “engaging”.  There can be no engagement unless others say something back.  In the olden days, the something was “I need this ear mark or that one”.  Today the dialog is written in some special interest’s back room.

The sad part of this is that ear marks are not the answer to the mess President Obama finds himself in.  The President is simply frustrated with the low intellectual level of Congressional discourse.  To his fault, President Obama prefers to say nothing rather than engage in clear demagoguery.  To say, President Obama does not suffer fools well might be an understatement.

I wonder whether Hillary will do better?

 

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