In the almost 8,000 pet projects ( better known as earmarks or to some pork barrel ) submitted by members of Congress in this year’s appropriation bill, one of them caught my eye as a taxpaying resident of Massachusetts. Right there amidst the money for transportation upgrades, obesity research and at risk programs for teens was $5.8 million for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.
Putting aside whether citizens of Massachusetts love or hate the “Liberal Lion” of the Senate, this earmark is not only unnecessary but outrageous. I am sure that Ted Kennedy’s colleagues in the Massachusetts delegation put this in the spending bill to honor his long career in the Senate, but the source of the earmark is not the problem, it is the fiscal philosophy that is behind it.
This kind of project should be privately funded, not have the taxpayers pick up the tab. Let the Kennedy clan dip into their trust funds to help their dad and uncle, or if the kids want to save their money, then start a fund-raising campaign. I’ll bet my mortgage that within a day or two the target of $ 5.8 million could be reached with just a few properly placed calls.
This earmark for Teddy may not reach the level of the $ 1.2 million to study pig smells, but it comes out of the same disregard for controlling spending at a time when the country is flat broke and in debt up to its eyeballs. Of course, President Obama will approve Teddy’s earmark not only because he owes the Senator, but also because he is signing off on all the earmarks from Democrats and Republicans alike.
I am sure that the official justification for Teddy’s earmark and all the others is that it will create jobs or help solve a national problem or provide some important service that had been curtailed. But here’s a fresh thought, how about an across the board freeze on earmarks, at least until the country gets back on its feet.
If the guys and gals in the Congress want these programs and projects so badly, they should use their considerable clout to convince private foundations or private citizens to help out, not tag the taxpayer. The argument that members of Congress have the responsibility to represent the interests of the people back home doesn’t make sense in this time of economic meltdown. The argument that does make sense is that Congress must realize it has a fiscal responsibility to stop taking actions that put us further in the red. Sorry Ted, but your earmark is off the mark.