By Joel Bomgar
For me, the U.S. Senate primary (and now runoff on June 24) is a referendum on spending, deficits, debt and earmarks. One side argues that most earmarks are wasteful and have created a culture in Washington of spending and debt (which I agree has been the case), and the other side argues that federal earmarks are good and necessary for Mississippi to get its more-than-fair share of the federal pie and that earmarks are good for Mississippi’s economy.
But are earmarks really good for Mississippi’s economy?
According to in-depth scientific research, pork barrel spending does not actually help the overall economies where it is sent. Rather, it distorts local economies, stifles competition and reduces the number of jobs offered by private businesses.
A study published in 2011 by Harvard University and the National Bureau of Economic Research examined the performance of private firms after an increase in federal earmarks to a particular state. The data, collected from 1967 to 2008, shows “strong and widespread evidence of corporate retrenchment” in states with a sizable increase in earmarks. Even worse, they concluded that federal dollars “directly supplant private sector activity.”
The study found that while chairmanships of powerful committees do bring increases of earmark spending of around 40-50 percent to the chairman’s home state, the average private business in that state actually “cuts back capital expenditures by roughly 15 percent” and that behavior continues until the member no longer holds that position.
Not only are most earmarks harmful, but with every dollar that a member of congress earmarks, they trade off their ability to stand up against other wasteful spending. While many republican members in Washington have taken a stand against earmarks and excessive government spending, unfortunately, too many have allowed, encouraged and even championed this continued culture of spending, which has run up our national debt from less than $500 Billion a few decades ago to over $17 Trillion today. It is hard for someone to turn off the spending spigot if they need to keep it going wide open to allow their earmarks to keep going through. America is drowning in debt and it is time to rein in spending if we are going to preserve America’s greatness.
Most earmarks are not just wasteful and harmful, they are also distracting. While a few conservatives were loudly standing up against initial passage of Obamacare in 2010, too many of their colleagues were distracted with home-state projects to be actively involved in the opposition. Wouldn’t Mississippi be better off today if the singular focus of every republican in 2009 and 2010 was stopping initial passage of Obamacare rather than earmarking projects? If the republicans had used their time and energy to persuade even a single senate democrat to break ranks and vote against Obamacare that would have prevented the Obamacare train wreck even before it happened. And what helped get the votes to pass Obamacare when it came to a final vote? You guessed it … earmarks!
It is time for Mississippians and all Americans to stand up against deficits and debt if we want to preserve America’s greatness. I don’t want to leave our children with an insurmountable mountain of debt and the dependency and lack of self-determination that go with it. I hope you will join me in voting for a future of less spending, less debt, and the financial prudence that will preserve and enhance the freedom, liberty, and prosperity of all Americans.
» Joel Bomgar is chairman of the board for Bomgar Corp.