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Public Choice, in practice
Posted by: Jon Henke on Sunday, December 24, 2006

Some weeks ago, I expressed tentative praise for some Democratic reforms on earmarks, while stipulating that "we'll see if they follow through" and that the "new Republican leadership needs to hold Pelosi to this pledge". One can always hope.

Specifically, one can hope in one hand and spit in the other...
The Democrats taking over the Congressional appropriations committees next year have boldly pledged to place a moratorium on earmarks [...] But like much resolute talk in the Capitol, the declaration may not have the sweeping effect that the plan’s backers have suggested and its critics have denounced. [...] ...the scope of the declared moratorium may be far more limited than it sounds. For one thing, the Democrats have not said they will delete financing for earmarks that lawmakers included in spending bills for the 2006 fiscal year and hoped to renew for 2007, a category that may include the majority of earmarks.

Instead, what the Democrats will omit is the long explanations usually appended to each spending bill to instruct federal agencies how to spend the money. Their resolution will include only total numbers for each agency, without the instructions. ... But many if not most earmarks are recurring items, like money for a university research program or a public works project that Congressional sponsors insert each year. No Democrats have suggested any plan to cut or redirect that money.
As Tom Coburn indicates, this is still a "step in the right direction". However, it's discouraging that, even with all the public pressure for — and accompanying campaign promises to produce — genuine reform, such promises are already being scaled back. If that happens within weeks of an election, imagine the devotion to reform down the road.

This isn't really a partisan or ideological failure. It's a structural failure built into the system and predicted by standard public choice theory.

(via the similarly disappointed Pejman)
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Previous Comments to this Post 

This isn’t really a partisan or ideological failure.

I will agree with this statement to the extent that it is limited to earmarks, but I think there is a built-in institutional imperative with the Democratic party for government spending.

Aside from plaintiff’s attorneys, the largest source of funding and grass-roots support for the Democrats comes from public employee unions. These unions, in turn, get their funding from union dues that are are deducted from the paychecks of government employees. Follow the money: for the Democrats, cutting government spending is the equivalent of de-funding their own party.
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
"Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

Be prepared for more "surprises" as changing the (R) to a (D) has little effect on the growth of government.

Of course earmarks are such a small part of government spending that eliminating them entirely would have almost no effect at all.
Written By: DS
URL: http://

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