Jenny EriksonGovernment spending has to be renewed every year. Which means that an annual budget needs to be passed by Congress and signed by the President. That budget is currently being debated in the Senate, as the deadline to pass it is this Saturday at midnight. If it’s not passed, the government will discontinue nonessential services until we can come to some sort of agreement about how and where to spend taxpayer dollars.
The omnibus spending bill is nearly 2,000 pages long and has a price tag of $1,270,000,000,000, which includes $8,000,000,000 in earmark spending. There are thousands of these pet-projects in the bill, including $247,000 for virus free wine grapes in Washington State and $400,000 for solar parking canopies and plug-in electric stations in Kansas.
Republicans are outraged at this excessive spending, and are refusing to pass the bill because of it. Never mind that some of them have their own earmarks in there. The thing about earmarks -- they’re necessary for politicians to get a slice of the pie for their constituents. If politicians don’t bring home the proverbial bacon for their districts or states, they face losing their jobs by being voted out. The system might be messed up, but it is what it is, and until we start asking serious questions about the practicality of using federal funds for local projects, it stays.
While nothing to sneeze at, earmarks make up less than 1% of this spending bill. Arguing over them distracts from the real issue -- the amount of money wasted on nonessential services. Even if we have a "government shutdown" in the next week, essential services such as law enforcement, social security, health services, and education would continue to be funded. Which raises the question: What is nonessential government spending and how much do we spend on it?
The last time the government shut down in the mid-90s, 42% of the personnel at affected agencies were sent home for a few weeks; 99% at the Department of Housing and Urban Development were deemed nonessential. What are those federal employees doing over there? Why do we have a government department in which 99% of its employees are nonessential?
Corporate welfare and subsidies eat up another huge chunk of change. Farm subsidies alone cost Americans $25 billion annually, “the majority of which are granted to commercial farmers, who also report an average income of $200,000 and an average net worth of $2 million.” Fortune 500 companies like IBM and General Electric receive millions in grant money ... I have a feeling they’d survive without it.
Government spending is out of control, and the debate over earmarks is just the tip of the iceberg. Politicians need to do what families across the nation have done in this tough economy: Tighten the belt and wave goodbye to excessive spending.