April 09, 2006
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN)'s office sent me this by Ford on pork:
A bipartisan problem demands a bipartisan solution. In that spirit, I offer several ideas to give Americans the best value for their tax dollars.
First, institute a "stand by your earmark" rule. If a member of Congress wants to insert an earmark into a bill at the final stage of the legislative process, he should be forced to sign his name to the provision and explain why it is in the interests of the nation as a whole. This rule would prevent special-interest favors from being slipped into bills at the last minute with no one claiming responsibility.
At the same time, members of Congress would have a chance to defend projects that have genuine value. For example, I would be proud to stand up and persuade my colleagues that it was worthwhile to invest the $1 million in federal money that was approved last year for LeMoyne-Owen College's juvenile asthma research program, which is benefiting the entire nation.
Second, the secretive nature of lobbying is one of the main reasons Congress spends money on projects that serve special interests at the expense of the national interest. Lobbyists should be required to disclose who all of their clients are and what specific provisions they are lobbying for.
Third, we should institute a rule that any new spending has to be offset somewhere else in the budget. Requiring Congress to balance its books every year -- like any business or family -- would force us to separate national needs from political luxuries.
Fourth, this very simple idea might be the most effective: Let the American people read bills before Congress votes on them. Post the entire text of the bills, including every pork project and special-interest provision, on the Internet for all to see, for at least 72 hours before the vote.
Forcing members of Congress to defend the indefensible would make them think twice before wasting taxpayer dollars.
This sounds pretty good -- it's basically the PorkBusters legislative program -- and I hope to talk to Ford (who's running for Senate now) about this in the near future.
UPDATE: Chattanooga reader C.G. Browning is skeptical:
Everything Ford writes is an excellent idea. Does anyone think he could possibly get enough support for just one, I repeat, just one of these ideas to become a reality?
I donít think so and neither does Mr. Ford. Government spending is conducted in secret and will remain so to keep the ones in power, in power.
I think it's possible to change dynamics like that, if you pick the right moment. And I think that this may be the right moment. It's certainly worth a try. The history of politics in this country, after all, is a history of things that nobody ever thought could be changed, changing.