Earmarks are (not) OK

In a Wichita Eagle letter, writer Prem N. Bajaj of Wichita makes the case that Earmarks are OK. But only by tortured reasoning, in my opinion.

First, he states: “Earmarks finance local projects that the community is unable to support.” I ask Mr. Bajaj this question: Where, if not from community, does money for earmarks come from? If you consider just two parties — your local community and the federal government — earmarks may seem like a great thing. Free money! Who doesn’t want that? But communities across the country lobby for and get earmarks too, and they may be represented by congressmen more skilled at obtaining earmarks than ours.

At best, earmarks might be a wash, where each community receives earmarks equal to what it sends to Washington. But even if this were the case, why have Washington involved at all? Each community could keep its own money and spend it as it sees fit, without subjecting itself to the waste and corruption inherent in the present earmark process.

Then he writes this: “The money comes from the taxpayers, and they are the beneficiaries.” Mr. Bajaj writes as though relying on government, rather than markets and the private sector, leads to greater wealth. In fact, the opposite is true. The incentives that government faces and responds to are not the same as the private sector, where waste and inefficiency are punished. Not to mention failing to supply what consumers really want to buy.

A few quotes from economist Thomas Sowell seem appropriate at this time:

“This was all before politicians gave us the idea that the things we could not afford individually we could somehow afford collectively through the magic of government.”

“If you have been voting for politicians who promise to give you goodies at someone else’s expense, then you have no right to complain when they take your money and give it to someone else, including themselves.”

“Mystical references to ‘society’ and its programs to ‘help’ may warm the hearts of the gullible but what it really means is putting more power in the hands of bureaucrats.”

“The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”

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