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A return to earmarks?: Pigs return to the trough

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Leave it to a big-spending government apologist like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to suggest bringing back congressional earmarks to grease the sputtering appropriations process.

“They'll come back,” the Nevada Democrat says — “it's only a question of time because that's our constitutional obligation.”

A congressional moratorium in 2011 put the brakes on what some call “specially-tailored spending provisions,” otherwise known as pork. And whereas some lawmakers still have managed to get “carve-outs” since then, according to The Heritage Foundation, the measure has been effective in slowing spending.

Consider the recently passed $12.3 billion water resources bill. Its predecessor, 2007's $23 billion “porkfest,” included all manner of goodies for projects with little, if anything, to do with water.

Earmarks peaked in 2006, when Congress designated more than 15,800 of them, amounting to nearly $72 billion for projects dictated by political, not public, needs.

Lawmakers don't need earmarks to do their job. To the contrary, “The lack of earmarks is encouraging the appropriations subcommittees to ... spend more time allocating resources based on merit,” says Maya MacGuineas, director of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Those who would return Congress to its earmarking ways deserve not the carrot but the stick.

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