It is a term that has recently come into the political vocabulary more frequently: "earmarks." Earmarks are provisions in congressional bills that add funding not requested in the original bill. Often these earmarks have little or nothing to do with the bill being passed by Congress. In the past ten years Congress has increased the number of earmarks by fourfold. In 2006 there were 13,012 earmarks passed! Both Democrats and Republicans play this game. The total cost to America is $67.1 billion, more than triple the amount of earmarks ten years ago. And all of this was accomplished under the leadership of people who were supposed to be fiscally conservative. One wonders what such words mean any longer in the political culture of our time.
Today President Bush called upon Congress to stop all these earmarks. I doubt anyone will make a real effort to comply until the public says, "Enough." (And I doubt the president will veto a bill because it has too many earmarks attached to it. We shall see.) I further doubt the public will say "enough" until there is more unrest about the government itself and more grassroots concern to actually change it. Changing parties may help but I seriously doubt it. The Democrats have an opportunity to prove their campaign promises in this area but I’m not holding my breath. A chastened Republican minority will now have to live with their new status in Congress, partly because they were arrogant and reckless in the 109th Congress. This new situation could create a new effort to turn back this earmark business. Again, I am not holding my breath. It was right after the Gingrich revolution of 1994 that this business began to really grow. And it developed under both Democratic and Republican leadership. It is a non-partisan offense. But who cares so long as we get our part of the pie?