The left is growing frustrated with the success conservatives are having in framing the omnibus spending bill as classic wasteful government spending. Pushing back, the Center for American Progress claims that Cutting Earmarks Doesn’t Save Money and Roll Call’s Stan Collender writes: “Saying That Cutting Earmarks Will Reduce Spending Is A Lie.”
An earmark simply is a congressional decision to allocate part of appropriation for a particular purpose. Eliminating the allocation doesn’t reduce the appropriation, it simply leaves the allocation decision to a federal department or agency rather than to Congress.
This statement is true. But conservatives do not claim that earmarks in themselves add to spending totals. As William McGurn explains in the Wall Street Journal:
What the public does not understand is that the more earmarks there are in a bill, the harder it will be to vote against it. The reason is simple: With every earmark, a congressman or senator gains a personal stake in the passage of a bill he or she might otherwise oppose.
Collender does acknowledge this argument. And here is his thorough response:
I’m skeptical about that argument: Even if there isn’t an earmark, there is still something in most appropriations for almost everyone.
That’s it!?!?! His response is that he is ‘skepitical’??!!? That is his big proof that anyone who claims earmarks encourage overall spending growth is a liar? Maybe Collender should familiarize himself with this chart of OMB data on the correlation between the number of earmarks and total federal spending:
Now correlation does not always equal causation, but anybody who knows how Congress actually works should find the link persuasive. Sen. Jim DeMint told Politico last year: “I talked to colleagues who would say, ‘DeMint, I gotta vote for this bill because it has my project in it,’ even though the bill was way over budget.”