• Arne Mortensen


December 2010


Congressional earmarks have earned a bad reputation with the voting public; we need only to think of a bridge to nowhere to become upset. But a knee-jerk response to eliminate earmarks is the wrong thing to do. We should embrace earmarks as the proper way to make sure our tax money gets spent properly, rather than just giving a blank check. Consider the case of giving your child $10,000 to be spent for productive purposes. If you earmark it for college you have a better chance that the money will get spent on something productive. With no earmark, you may get a postcard from Fiji which you read while you eat your 42nd dinner in a row of hot dogs and beans.

Without earmarks, all we do is allocate money to bureaucrats for a general purpose. We already know how this works; it assures that politics not need/utility will govern how the money is spent. It also means that we will have limited to no visibility into the allocation process. But with earmarks the allocation of funds is visible to us, so we have a say in the allocation and execution of the projects. Because earmarks have been grossly misused is not the fault of the earmarks but of the politicians. To think that removing earmarks is a way to combat government spending abuse is naïve. With no earmarks the problem cannot get better, but it certainly can get worse as responsibility/accountability hides further into government bureaucracy.

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