Jim's Column

"Show Me the Money"

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Washington, DC, September 15, 2006 | Raj Bharwani ((202) 225-5101) | comments
Money doesn’t grow on trees. But the ease and frequency with which some of my colleagues in Congress insert dollar amounts in spending bills makes me wonder if they’re aware of this concept. As my constituents know, I am not a fan of earmarks. This does not mean that I have never sponsored any during my tenure, but I have never been afraid to defend the projects I have supported. By and large, my philosophy -- perhaps a reflection of my Wisconsin upbringing -- has been that when it comes to our state, we do well when we compete for grants, rather than request money for specific programs.

This is an important philosophy because recent data shows that we now spend nearly $3 trillion each year just to keep the government running. Moreover, a recent Congressional Research Service analysis found that the number of earmarks authorized by Congress in appropriations bills alone -- commonly referred to as pork -- increased from 4,155 in 1994 to 15,887 in 2005, an increase of 282 percent! With this kind of spending, transparency is more important now than ever, because with transparency comes accountability. The American people should know exactly what Congress spends on individual projects in each district, and attribute each earmark to its sponsoring Member of Congress.

Two bills passed by the House this week address this problem: S. 2590, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, and H.Res. 1000, Providing for Earmarking Reform in the House of Representatives.

Passed by the House on September 13 by voice vote, S. 2590 requires that full disclosure of all entities and organizations receiving federal funds be made available by the Office of Management and Budget on a single, searchable website, accessible by the public at no cost. The website would provide the name of the entity receiving the award, the amount of the award, and all pertinent information relative to the award. The other bill, H.Res. 1000, passed the House on September 14 with my support. This legislation requires earmarks and their sponsors to be identified in all bills and conference reports, and provides the public with a clear picture of what those projects are, how much they cost, and who is sponsoring them. These pieces of legislation will enable every citizen to act as a federal watchdog as we all will be able to view where our taxpayer dollars are being spent.

I don’t know about you, but it makes sense to me that if a Member requests funding for a program in his or her district, then that Member should be willing to support it. If he or she is not inclined to do so, then taxpayers should not foot the bill for it. The practice of supporting pork projects and then burying the details in bills that are hundreds of pages in length has gone on for far too long. It’s time to remind politicians of both parties that they can't buy votes with pork projects paid for with taxpayer money. All they’re doing is digging a huge hole for us and our children.....a muddy hole for the pigs to roll around in. 
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