A Billion Here, A Billion There . . .

By James Schaefer

Recently, both President Obama and the Republican leadership have taken principled stands against “earmarks”, those special spending riders for local projects that are attached to larger appropriations.

Advocates of earmarks insist that earmark reform is misguided, since all earmarks total only –“only” — 2% to 3% of federal spending.

Federal spending in the fiscal year just completed was $3.5 trillion.  If I remember my math correctly, 2% of a lot of money is a lot of money.

Several thoughts:

First, this is about taxpayer’s collective trust in our elected representatives to do what is right for the constituents who elected them.

It is also about trust that our public servants understand where those dollars actually come from, and how taking those dollars from citizens — wage-earners and business-owners alike — affect the ability of businesses to hire, or expand, or the ability of households to save for retirement, or spend as they choose.

And, it is trust in the ability of the federal government to control spending, and to maintain spending at a tolerable and sustainable level.

With apologies to Everett Dirkson, 2% here and 2% there, and pretty soon we’re talking about real money.

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