Posted by: Randy Allgaier | March 8, 2009

Derailing the budget over “earmarks” – Irresponsible!

Earmarks! Yikes! The word conjures up a cigar smoke filled room with some sleazy member of Congress making a deal with a big campaign contributor for a big fat government contract.

Earmarks have become political hay. It sounds like waste, fraud and patronage. But are they? Earmarks usually account for less than 1 or 2 percent of the federal discretionary (non-entitlement) budget. They often fund important projects – the Northeast corridor of Amtrak for one. Of course all the media report on are the ones that sound outrageous- mostly studies that Senator McCain and others mock as frivolous. There are about $7 billion worth of earmarks in the massive “omnibus” spending bill that costs more than $400 billion and wraps up three-quarters of the federal government’s discretionary spending for the current fiscal year in one big package. That’s 1.75% of this bill.

Oh yeah- the Republicans account for 40% of the earmarks in the current bill. Can we say HYPOCRITE?

Are all earmarks bad? Absolutely NOT (See Amtrak). Are they all noble and useful projects? No. Is it considered part of the job to bring money into ones Congressional district? Yes. Do earmarks stimulate some local economies? Probably.

Do the Republicans really think that holding up a bill that funds some pretty important issues like health, education, and veteran’s affairs for earmarks that are less than 2% of the bill and probably a minuscule amount towards ill conceived projects is going to make a dent in our current financial crisis? Are they serious? It’s nothing but political posturing and it’s IRRESPONSIBLE.

They are playing politics and they are doing on the backs of some of the most vulnerable populations.

If you read my posts regularly you’ll know that my expertise is in healthcare- more specifically HIV/AIDS healthcare. . The Omnibus Appropriations Bill includes funding for the majority of domestic HIV/ AIDS programs. The Omnibus legislation makes some long overdue increases in the Ryan White Program (which serves the people living with HIV/AIDS with the severest need by $71.6 million and the National Institutes of Health by $938 million. It decreases ineffective Abstinence-only programs by $14 million. Within the Financial Services and General Government account, the Omnibus appropriates $1.4 million to the White House to develop a National AIDS Strategy.

This country insists that every nation that receives PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) funding has a national AIDS strategy, but ironically our country doesn’t have one. The HIV/AIDS community has made developing a National AIDS strategy a priority and the measly $1.4 million appropriated for the development of this strategy (a commitment that both McCain and Obama made) is at risk because of the nonsense about earmarks.

I know the HIV/AIDS issues best, but I bet you every coin your pocket that there are programs across the board that are at risk because of the shenanigans of the “anti-earmark” fetishists just as they are with HIV/AIDS.

“Earmark reform” and “freezing spending” make nice bumper stickers, but if people would just think, they would realize that’s all they are. Bumper stickers make lousy public policy.


  1. […] Visit original post by Randy Allgaier […]

  2. Amtrak – are you kidding me – what a freaking joke! This company hasn’t turned a profit – wait for it – EVER!

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