For kicks, let's imagine earmarks as tribbles.

Remember those critters? They weren't all bad, of course, because they loathed Klingons. But as cute as they were meant to be, they spread and spread and spread and spread.

Anway, the furry anology came to me when I saw a post by Laura Peterson, the policy analyst at Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Here's what she had to say:

"The 2009 defense authorization bill headed for the House floor this week has already raised a ruckus over earmarks, and there's a lot to get excited about: 541 worth $9.9 billion, a healthy increase from the 449 earmarks worth $7.7 disclosed in last year's authorization bill.

"The bulk of the earmarked money--$7.4 billion--would go to just five projects:
· Boeing's C-17 Globemaster cargo plane ($3.9 billion);
· Northrop Grumman's LPD-17 ship ($1.8 billion);
· Lockheed Martin's F-22 Raptor ($523 million);
· The Northrop Grumman/General Dynamics Virginia Class Submarine ($722 million);
· Lockheed Martin's P-3 Orion ($448 million)."

This is all very interesting, of course, in part because the same legislation had a stealth amendment (until it was discovered!) that would have effectively nullified a directive by President Bush to make earmarks a clear part of legislation, not a tail added on later.

"Committee Chairman Ike Skelton said the directive would limit the Defense Department's "
'flexibility' and do 'serious damage' to its relationship with the committee. Apparently DoD needs plenty of room (and earmarks) to stretch its legs."

Oh, snap!

By Robert O'Harrow |  May 23, 2008; 12:00 PM ET earmarks
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The few, large earmarks cited are really budget politics rather than earmarks in the traditional sense. The military services are given budget caps they must live within; they have more needs/wants than the caps support; they prioritize and leave out some high-priced items with the realization that Congress will add these items back in and, with the additions booked as Congressional adds, the additions don't count against their budget caps. This process has been going on for years with the C-17 and the C-130J. It meets everyone's needs--the services get the equipment they want and live within the published budget caps, and Congressional members demonstrate their support for both national defense and equipment made in their districts.

If someone wanted to halt this shell game the solution is easy--require all such Congressional adds to count against the directed budget caps. Either the Congress would have to identify offsetting reductions as part of the process, or give the services an undistributed cut equal to the adds the services would have to in turn apply to their approved budget.

Posted by: usafa75 | May 27, 2008 12:28 PM

I detect a hint, to put it mildly, of bias in this post. One of the critisisms mentioned here is that these five programs constitue nearly all of the earmaked budget. Maybe the critisism should weigh the value of these programs to the military versus cost on a case-by-case basis, instead of implying all of the spending is wasteful based on price-tag alone.

Posted by: Jeff | June 1, 2008 9:15 PM

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