They’re back, in spades, courtesy of Congress’ latest spend-a-thon, the $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill just rushed through under the guise of billions more dollars in aid and weapons for Ukraine. The funding for Ukraine is sorely needed, but that should have been argued and enacted through a separate, stand-alone bill. Instead, Progressive-Democrats and too many Republicans (vis., Senator Richard Shelby, R, AL) used the blood and bodies of Ukrainians to speed through their personally convenient spending wishes—earmarks.
The argument for earmarks is that Congress should direct this spending rather than leave it to the federal bureaucracy. But the bureaucracy is better placed to make trade-offs based on economic value and urgent need in a world of limited resources.
There are two failures in this claim by The Wall Street Journal‘s Editorial Board.
One is that earmarks are perfectly fine as compromise grease and tradeoffs—they just should occur from within a separate budget and allocation line item for earmarks, and each such earmark should be openly debated on the House and Senate floors so We the People can see them and approve or disapprove of them.
The other is the incredibly naive claim that bureaucracy is better placed to make trade-offs based on economic value and urgent need. No, it’s not. Bureaucrats, just like any other politicians, whether elected or Civil Servant, will make the trade-offs that best suit the bureaucrat(s) involved. On top of that, it’s Congress that controls spending, not bureaucrats. Spending decision should be left to our elected representatives in those houses; delegation needs to be reined in and severely curtailed.