Two Cheers for Dueling Earmark Reform Proposals in House
Brian Riedl /
After enacting 93,000 earmarks at a cost of $200 billion over the past decade, lawmakers are finally taking the first steps to rein them in. First, House Democrats hinted they may announce a moratorium on earmarks to for-profit companies (while retaining them for non-profit organizations and state and local governments).
Then, not be outdone, the House Republican conference today announced that they will not seek any earmarks in this year’s budget.
This is a strong positive development. Earmarks distribute government grants by politics rather than by merit. Instead of submitting a strong application to a federal agency, grant-seekers are often forced to hire lobbyists and make campaign donations. This corrupting process has resulted in multiple federal investigations, one of which concluded with a Member of Congress going to prison.
Reducing earmarks will not directly reduce the amount of money available for grantees. Instead, it will empower federal agencies to select grantees through a merit-based application process. For other programs, it means more funding will instead be distributed to state and local governments, who can better decide where to repair a road or how to revitalize a neighborhood than politicians in Washington D.C. (more…)