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Tulsa World Editorial: Fight on
November 15, 2010

Posted by Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov

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Editorial: Fight on

Congressional earmarks battle rages

by World's Editorial Writers

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Link to Editorial

Love him or hate him, Oklahomans have to admire U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe's tenacity when it comes to the fraudulent war on earmarks being waged by some of his fellow lawmakers.

The Oklahoma Republican has vowed to vigorously fight a proposed Senate moratorium on earmarks, using as one of his strongest arguments the blatant hypocrisy of the anti-earmark crusade.

Inhofe believes his solid bona fides as a stalwart conservative will lend credence to his battle.

But it will be an uphill battle. "Earmarks" has become a dirty word in the political arena, ranking almost up there with the "T" word and the "L" word. (For the uninitiated, that's taxes and liberals.)

The House already has imposed an earmarks moratorium and now senators realize there is much political hay to be harvested by hopping on that wagon.

Earmarks, also referred to as pork spending, are line-item appropriations that typically are authorized through the committee process but not included in any agency or department budget. They account for a tiny fraction of federal spending - only 1.5 percent of discretionary spending - and their dollar numbers have been dwindling in recent years, thanks to all the negative publicity.

That publicity also has prompted reforms, including a new requirement that sponsoring lawmakers must attach their names to earmark proposals and an explanation justifying the project. Most House members and senators now have extensive vetting procedures to ensure that earmarks they seek to fund are worthwhile.

But the most significant argument against an earmark moratorium is the fact it won't save taxpayers a single dime, Inhofe notes. If earmarks are done away with, the funding they would receive would revert to agency budgets, and bureaucrats would get to decide how to spend it.

So while eliminating earmarks sounds good to constituents, it does nothing to bring down the level of federal spending.

"While they demagogue it and say they want to get rid of earmarks, they don't address the funding problem that we have,'' Inhofe said.

Inhofe has floated a plan for further reducing earmark spending by tightening up what would be deemed an earmark, but his proposal has not gotten any traction.

For a poor state like Oklahoma, earmarks have provided significant improvements that would not have been undertaken otherwise: projects like Interstate 44 improvements, the Tar Creek Superfund site relocations, numerous military base projects, and low-water dams for the Arkansas River.

Still think earmarks are so awful?

Inhofe's right. If conservative leaders really want to do something about runaway federal spending, they should look somewhere else.

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