Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lord, What's An Earmark?

Remember the old Bill Cosby "Noah" routine... "Lord, what's a cubit?" Sleepy isn't terribly bright sometimes and feels as puzzled about earmarks.

The word conjures up images of pigs and pork and all of the bad smells that go with a pig farm. If you want to coin a phrase that reeks of fat and lazy animals, earmark is a perfect word to use.

Sleepy's business experience is that people who receive budget money in corporate America love it when the uses for those funds aren't terribly specific. That gives the manager much leeway in spending the funds and allows for some changes in plans that may come up during the year. When a budget has been justified by a specific purpose, that purpose can often be completely forgotten by the time the funds are spent by the manager.

Google "earmark" and you'll find explanations from the viewpoint of the OMB (part of the Executive Branch of our government):

It looks to Sleepy like an earmark from the OMB perspective is anything from the Legislative Branch that reins in its ability to use discretion in spending the taxpayers' money.

Google "good earmarks" and you get a different perspective. Everyone agrees that the bridge to nowhere is not our Legislative Branch's finest moment, but there are cases where some specificity and accountability in having legislative intentions implemented aren't terrible things.

Perhaps when legislation is designed specifically to help sheep avoid the slaughter of ALS it isn't all that evil. It may handcuff the Executive Branch's discretion a tad, but in the big picture, is it really a smelly barrel of pork?

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