Earmarks – how much do we love them

MDR has a story today about SHS being one the top earmarkers in the U.S. House.   Earmarks have traditionally been a badge of honor for Congresspersons and Senators but they’ve fallen out of media, conservative and tea party favor (you don’t talk about being a great earmarker without getting a public beating)  In this election, SHS used some commercials to point out her scoring dollars for SD — but it wasn’t her main theme.  No question it’s a tough walk to walk — earmarks out of public favor, but very few projects would turn down the cash.

The next two years will be interesting — earmarks are potentially being “banned”  So what’s Kristi Noem to do?  Will the ability to secure SD federal money become an issue for the campaign in 2012.  Could earmarks be the what tips the scale for SHS to more than 50-50…..

So conservatives and tea partyiers– are you really against earmarks for everyone or just for other people?

37 Replies to “Earmarks – how much do we love them”

  1. Anon

    Think about ramifications for projects like Lewis & Clark Water Pipeline, Highway 34 Expansion project and others who have been on the list for earmarks needed to start or complete these valuable citizen projects. Earmarks aren’t bad unless they are self-serving or ridiculous, and we’ve all seen examples of those spending errors. The bad ones give the good ones a bad name.

  2. RC

    @Anon 9:02 If a project is worthy, it shouldn’t have to be buried in an unrelated bill as an earmark. It should stand on its own merits. I would argue the “Four for 34” project doesn’t necessarily fit into that category. Noem and Thune can continue to bring home the proverbial “bacon” by going through a legitimate appropriations process.

  3. Seriously?

    According to the AL – the delegation brought home $58 million last year in defense earmarks.

    Noem complained about a 50 million cut to Ellsworth in a House Subcommittee…while at the same time supporting the ban on earmarks.

    Hmmmm…I bet the folks at Ellsworth and Joe Foss are jumping with joy now that they’ll be seeing less funding… thanks to our newly elected Rep.

  4. Troy Jones

    The problem with all earmarks is they don’t go through any cost/benefit analysis for determining the efficacy and worthiness of the project relative to other expenditures or even whether the money should be spent at all.

    Earmarks also make it to easy for abuse by the powerful to serve their own purpose.

    Finally, earmarks can be the means to buy votes.

    In all cases, the system doesn’t work. There is a better way in which members of Congress can serve their constituents and get worthy projects funded- It is called Appropriations.

  5. duggersd

    anon 9:02:
    Your example of the Lewis and Clark project is an interesting one. This is a project that has been approved by Congress, I believe and is supposed to be on a schedule. The towns along the pipeline have put up a substantial portion of money that will pay for a substantial part of it. There should be no need for an earmark for this project.
    That being said, as a resident of Sioux Falls, I would prefer they raise the rates of our water to the point where we actually pay for our portion of the pipeline. That would go for the other municipalities as well. I really do not believe the people of NY are going to benefit from this, just a few people from Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota. Lewis and Clark is an example of what is wrong with our country. Those of us benefiting should be the ones who pay.

  6. SDMike

    If its a local need the locals should pay for it i.e. – Lewis and Clark, thus they would have more skin in it. I think we all know of projects that have taken place that we really don’t need. A good example of that would be the $2.5 million being spent on that rust bucket Meridian Bridge at Yankton – that is fricken Pork Barrel!!! Plus it ruins a good veiw down river from the new bridge. If they felt it was so important they should have raised the money themselves. There are times we need an earmark – but it has gotten completely out of hand.


  7. Duh

    As Troy illuded to, earmarks are those expenditures tacked on to a bill that has no relation. Thune even spoke about this. If it goes through committee on its own, gets funding through appropriations, then it’s not an earmark. I don’t think Lewis & Clark was one of those, thus is appropriate.

  8. BurningBrule

    You want another example of a Federal subsidy program that has totally spiraled out of control? Try the multi-billion redistributionist scheme called the Federal Universal Service Fund for “telecommunications.”

    Anyone who has interstate phone “usage” (and it isn’t just interstate toll calls) has to pay a surcharge to fund the Federal USF. It was just announced yesterday that that surcharge will shoot up to 15.5% for the first quarter 2011 – the highest contribution factor EVER.

    This money is collected primarily from urban areas of the country and redistributed to rural areas under the mantle of universal telephone service for all. It is a massive redistribution scheme that subsdizes below cost telephone service to the Sully Buttes, the Murdos, the Onidas of the nation at the expense of customers in Sioux Falls, Chicago and New Jersey.

    The size of the fund just for the high-cost portion of the Federal Universal Service Fund approaches 7 BILLION per YEAR.

    It is no wonder then that rural state legislators band together – regardless of party – to protect this glaring example of provincial pork and why you would see a Ted Stevens making common cause with the Daschles and Dorgans to keep this massive urban-to-rural redistributionist scheme going.

  9. Shamrock

    Drugger, those benefiting should be the one’s that pay. So should we limit farm subsidies to the amount of income tax collected from farmers?

  10. Arrowhead

    Kristi will have say no. She will have to say no to all of the pet projects from DC for SD. She will have to say we don’t have the money.

    But she will just do exactly what John Thune tells her to do. Her voting record will be exactly like John Thune’s.

  11. Anonymous

    Earmarks and farm subsidies are a problem. I will argue that even if Kristi and John don’t take subsidies or earmarks for SD Obama will still send stimulus dollars to the state.

  12. Shamrock

    @11:43, shouldn’t the state say no to stimulus dollars? That’s right the GOP only likes to speak against government spending, they don’t like to actually cut it. They say, “well some other state will take it” and use the stimulus to balance the budget, bail out big banks with TARP, give takes breaks to the top %2 that we can’t afford, and give billions of dollars to connected companies like Halliburton at the federal level and millions to connected companies at the state level. The GOP is not fiscally conservative.

  13. duggersd

    shammy, I have said in the past I do not like farm subsidies. However, I really do not see how you equate one with the other. I would submit to you if the locals paid for the L&C project, it would cost a lot less. This is also a case in which I am advocating personally paying more.

  14. Anonymous

    “Think about ramifications for projects like Lewis & Clark Water Pipeline, Highway 34 Expansion project and others….”

    I have not been able to see any evidence of where SDDOT has a study of this project. Care to produce evidence of where this project is necessary. And as for the water pipeline, why can’t South Dakota issue bonds backed by water bill payments to pay for this project?

  15. Duh

    L & C is not just a SD thing, that’s why its funded federally. It affects water rights among several states and hundreds of miles of water. There is no way that SD could pay for it on its own.

  16. ip

    Check ponds along the Cheyenne, James and Big Sioux Rivers could begin the remediation of those watersheds and provide irrigation water that otherwise comes out of the Ogallala Aquifer. Use land-locked wind turbines to move that water over truck crops.

  17. shamrock

    Dugger, I was making the point that if Lewis and Clark should be paid for by the users, shouldn’t subsidies be paid for by farmers? I don’t agree with either point, but thought it would be a good discussion point.

    The GOP seems to like to rail on about spending, but doesn’t want to do anything about it except attack “socialism” abstractly. Why not let the Bush tax cuts expire? Why not cut defense? Why not end the wars?

  18. Les

    Brule…”””Try the multi-billion redistributionist scheme called the Federal Universal Service Fund for ?telecommunications.?””

    Brule as much as I enjoy your posts, you are a mile and a half off base with this.

    Universal service could be compared directly to the Interstate Highway system.

    The producers of vegetables in California understand they cannot sell their product to the midwest or Canada without a highway system they will help pay for.

    UPS would not have come to SD for all the tea in China if Chicago didn’t need to ship us product.

    Likewise the Telecommunications act of 1996 set for by a congress of the US/(all the states) said we need universal service for the interstate commerce to function from these lowcost areas into the highcost rural America.

    Is there waste and fraud, darn right there is as the wireless companies get on board with little cost compared to our hardwired locals serving the last mile!

    Change is coming regardless of what we think. For 90% of the land mass of the US that produces the only GDP America has left we better damn sure hope it is equitable.

  19. WhiteSnow

    Good Lord!! It seems that everyone is hooked on the ‘government tit’ one way or another. To eliminate this addiction is for all of us to accept that we’ll be getting a little less in the future if these political tricks are just cut-off.

    Where is the outrage? Need to read a book just out where Americans finally stand up to tyranny cause they are just like each of us. I recommend it cause it’s so real.


    We can’t say we want less government & taxes unless we start without selfish ‘needs’. Stop the earmarks!!

  20. duggersd

    Shamrock, I still see that as apples and oranges. The subsidies are a way of increasing the farmers’ income so to subsidize them by taxing them really does not make sense to me. However I still maintain they should really be scaled back and hopefully one day eliminated.
    I think President Bush tried to do something about the really large farmers getting the really large subsidies, but it failed in Congress. Not sure who was to blame.
    I still believe those of us benefiting from L&C could indeed pay for it and we would all be better off. However it has been approved and should be in each year’s funding so I really do not see that as an ear mark.

  21. Anonymous

    Noem is going to walk a tight rope this cycle. It’s not easy to say NO to pork from DC. She will have to make sure SD gets the projects we need and not upset the tea party folks that pushed her through the primary.

    She has to say no. She can not spin it any direction. If she is soft on PORK she will be less popular.

    She did not recieve 50% of the vote and that is partly because of the negative campaign Josh Shields ran. I suppose winning matters but so does building lasting positive image.

    Noem must walk a tight rope through 2012.

  22. anonymous

    There are projects that are federal, and projects that are regional or state or local. Right now the federal government is paying for all of them.

    Highway 34 is a state highway. The state should pay for it.

    The intersection by the Marion ethanol plant that Thune earmarked is a local project, and local taxpayers (primarily the ethanol plant) ought to pay for it.

    Ellsworth and Joe Foss field are federal projects and the federal government ought to pay for them – that is if they really are necessary to national defense and not just SD pork.

    Lewis & Clark is a regional project. The affected state and municipal governments ought to pay for it.

    The Johnson bridge to nowhere in Vermillion was a pure waste of taxpayer money and nobody should have paid for it. Now we’re stuck with ongoing upkeep.

    The Daschle library they tried to sneak in via earmark was pure pork – and Daschle should raise money privately if he wants it. But Bob Dole actually got his library built with taxpayer money. Both parties feed at the trough.

    The bottom line is that projects that the federal government needs to scale back and just pay for projects of ffederal importance. Regional, state and local projects nneed to be tossed back to the states & we’ll see how important they are when we actually have to pay for them. TThe federal money tree is empty. If Noem tries to keep throwing farmers free federal money every time it rains or snows or the wind blows then she deserves to be a one-termer.

  23. grudznick

    The real issue at hand that you are all ignoring is how now Mr. Sibby is the most prolific and reasonable blogger on the internets, now that PP has gone over to the side of Really Big Brother and is busy plotting for legislatures and legislaturing.

  24. Anonymous


    Do you think that when Thune runs for President and asks Kristi to campaign with him it will hurt her among South Dakotans who are still forming an opinion of her? She has a lot of potential to look like to much of a national figure when most of SD doesn’t know anything about her.

  25. DDC

    You almost got it, Larry. You need an exclamation point at the end.

    Beware the Kochtopus!

    Can’t wait to see Thune and Noem vote to repeal DADT, end farm subsidies, end the drug war, support an almost open-borders immigration policy, completely repeal the Patriot Act, immediately pull out of Iraq & Afghanistan, end warrant-less wiretaps, close Gitmo and slash military spending.

    Let me know when any of that happens and Thune and Noem vote for it.

    I wish the Koch brothers had even 1/1,000,000th of the power you think they do.

  26. Anon

    There were many times when Senators Johnson and Thune and Rep. Herseth mnade joint anmnouncements about earmarks for road and water projects that served many people and/or a large area. I think that is a proper use of earmarks.

    The problem is, earmarks were abused when used for silly stuff.

    Is reducing earmarks just a feel-good thing that has no measurable effect? Or is it a good place to start cutting a budget that is out of control?

    I don’t know what the answer is.

  27. William

    Even though the dollar amounts aren’t huge (in the big scheme of things) the earmark process has been abused so badly that even if one views an earmark ban as symbolic, it’s good symbolism and a positive step.


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