Another economic stimulus bill is imminent, and early reports put the potential price-tag around $700 billion. With such an astronomical figure being considered, it is no surprise the special interest lobbyists have taken notice.
Everyone wants part of the latest government hand out. From bailouts for states in financial trouble to energy-efficient home insulation, suddenly any and all government spending can be spun as “economic stimulus.”
If the treasury were to fill old bottles with banknotes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coal mines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again… there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of the repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth also, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is.”
Under these assumptions, government spending on something as absurd as digging in the dirt for nothing is considered good for the economy. This climate, in combination with the urge to reward loyal campaign supporters, sets up the potential for a stimulus larded up with billions in wasteful and unnecessary earmarks.
Congress must resist this pressure, and pledge to make no earmarks requests in the upcoming stimulus bill. Conservative members of Congress, in particular, must use this opportunity to finally take a meaningful stand against government waste.
The Republican Study Committee (RSC), representing the House conservatives, would be well suited to begin circulating such a pledge. In the 111th Congress the RSC members will represent over half of House Republicans, in theory giving them significant influence over the future of the party.
Although the flexing of the perceived conservative muscle in the Republican Party fell short in November – after a number of self-professed conservatives momentarily forgot their principles and failed to pass even a short-term earmark moratorium – the fight against wasteful spending must be continued. Pledging to abstain from earmark requests in the new stimulus bill is a vital first step.