Opinion: Congress should limit earmark spending, increase transparency

Photo: Architect of the Capitol via MGN Online

EDITOR'S NOTE: Boris Epshteyn formerly served as a Senior Advisor to the Trump Campaign and served in the White House as Special Assistant to The President and Assistant Communications Director for Surrogate Operations.

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - Americans want to know how our money is being used.

This week the group Citizens Against Government Waste released its annual report on spending by our lawmakers.

It says that in fiscal year 2017 there was $6.8 billion in pork barrel spending, otherwise known as earmarks - those special pet projects lawmakers add to a spending bill.

Historically earmarks were a way to steer funds to a representative's or senator's district in order to secure that member's vote. In other words, hey - you vote for my bill and you can tell your constituents that you brought them some more "moolah."

At times the money went to necessary projects, often it was absolutely wasteful.

In fiscal year 2006, earmarks totaled a whopping $29 billion.

Earmarks got so out of hand that Congress placed a moratorium on them back in 2010.

Some of the most outrageous earmarks? Let’s take a walk down memory lane:

  • the “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska
  • the “big dig” in Boston
  • $500,000 allocated to building a teapot museum in North Carolina

Yes, compared to that 2006 number, pork barrel spending has gone down dramatically.

Because of loopholes in the moratorium, earmark spending has actually increased each year since it was implemented.

Earmark spending doubled from the first year after that moratorium was in effect, FY 2012. So what does this moratorium do anyway?

Now, due to the new rules, the inclusion of earmarks is much vaguer and easier to hide in legislation.

The names of legislators are not included on earmarks, there is no list or chart available and there is extremely limited information on where this money is going.

There is no doubt that the federal government has to spend money. That is how we get highways, national defense and other vital services. However, government has to be accountable to the taxpayer. Transparency is key.

It appears that the moratorium on earmarks is now being used to, not just lower pork barrel spending, but hide the specifics of it as well.

Congress should pass new rules which will both limit earmarks and ensure that Americans know where the money goes. That’s the bottom line.

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