On her MSNBC program last night Rachel Maddow took on one of the great myths of American politics that banning earmarks is the same as cutting spending. Maddow called the Republican position on the earmark ban what it really is. According to Maddow the Republican earmark ban is an, “epic quest to seem fiscally responsible without actually being fiscally responsible.”
Here is the video from MSNBC:
Maddow described the Republican position on earmarks as “In their epic quest to seem fiscally responsible without actually being fiscally responsible, this year‘s Republicans have come up with a genius move. They voted today to voluntarily restrict themselves from identifying specific targets for funding in their districts in spending bills.”
She then pointed out why banning earmarks does nothing to reduce spending and the deficit, “This practice is usually nicknamed “earmarking.” Contrary to the common wisdom, it does not increase the amount of money that is spent by the federal government. It does not add to the deficit. It is just a means of directing money that‘s already slated to be spent, directing it to specific projects.”
Earmarks actually make up less than one half of 1% of the federal budget, “Even if you got rid of all the dollars that are earmarked, that are being directed to specific projects, you wouldn‘t make a dent in total spending, right? I mean, overall, really, it doesn‘t even register. Of the $3.5 trillion federal budget, it sounds like a lot, but it‘s a big country, about $16 billion is found in earmarks. That is less than one-half of 1 percent. That is a dot on a freckle. That is a fork in an atom. That is a tiny line in a pie chart that doesn‘t look like a slice. That‘s our best approximation of it. So, restricting earmarks does not really reduce spending. But Republicans sure make it sound like it does.”
Maddow highlighted the fact that Republicans like Michele Bachmann want to keep the millions of earmark dollars flowing to their district, so instead of actually banning earmarks, they are simply going to redefine what an earmark is, Because the congresswoman had asked for and received multiple transportation earmarks for her district, she now says, quote, ‘Advocating for transportation projects for ones district in my mind does not equate to an earmark.’ Yes it does, regardless of what‘s in your mind. When you make policy based on what things sound like rather than what they are, you are inviting people to just start pronouncing things differently in order to say that they have changed.”
The debate over banning earmarks is really nothing more than a Republican game of Three Card Monty. Sure it looks good to ban earmarks, but the ban doesn’t really do or change anything, and just to make sure that nothing will change, Republicans like Bachmann are set to redefine what an earmark is. By changing the rules of the game, Republicans can have their cake and eat it too. They can both pretend to fiscally conservative and keep the dollars flowing.
I feel sorry for those people who voted for the Republicans this year in their misguided belief that Republicans care about the deficit and cutting spending. People need to remember that a fundamental gospel of Republican ideology as laid out by their political holy ghost Ronald Reagan is that deficits don’t matter. I know that all of those Republican candidates ran in 2010 on an agenda of getting Washington to stop spending, but this is simply not going to happen.
Just as the last Republican controlled Congress conspired with then President George W. Bush to cook our collective fiscal books by keep large amounts of spending off budget, the new incoming Republican controlled House is taking it one step further. They aren’t satisfied with just cooking the books, they want to change the way that the books are kept. It is easy to appear fiscally responsible when spending is hidden under false terminology. Deluded fiscal responsibility is always easier than actually having to be fiscally responsible.
The only difference between the Republican House and the Democratic House will be where the money gets spent. The same self proclaimed Republican deficit hawks who scream that we can’t afford healthcare reform are salivating at the chance to exponentially increase our military budget, because pork disguised as patriotism and national security is totally acceptable to the Republican mind. Rachel Maddow was correct. Republicans are trying to appear to be fiscally responsible with actually having to be fiscally responsible, and if everything works the way that the GOP hopes it will, the American people will have no idea that the wool has been pulled over our collective eyes.