TPA President David Willams Debates Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza on Earmarks and the Government Shutdown

Michi Iljazi

October 3, 2013

The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has recently commented on the possibility of a government shutdown, and as it stands now we are headed to day four of the government shutdown that began at midnight on October 1st. The Republican-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate are at an impasse on Obamacare and spending which has resulted in the first shutdown of the federal government in 17 years. TPA has said from the outset that there was no reason to be at this point and the clear failure in leadership is disgraceful on all sides as everyone has a share in the blame, be it policy or process.  Taking a closer look at how to come to a resolution to solve the current deadlock between the Senate and House, Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza asked TPA President David Williams whether earmarks could have prevented the shutdown.  That’s right, earmarks! TPA has decried earmarks in the past and welcomed the decision to get them out of the political system in DC considering the negative impacts on spending, and behavior with cases of corruption on both sides of the aisle. The debate between Mr. Williams and Mr. Cillizza can be seen here!

For those unfamiliar with the problem, earmarks were the bribery currency of Congress for many years, as both parties used them to buy votes, bring federal dollars to their district and ultimately get re-elected.  Former members of Congress including Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) were sent to jail for accepting bribes to secure earmarks.  Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff also spent time in jail in connection with earmarks promised to clients.  The notorious “Bridge to Nowhere” earmark became a national symbol of government waste. 

Unfortunately, our nation’s history is now full of examples of wasteful spending due to the practice of congressional earmarking.  Some of the most egregious examples include: $50,000,000 for an indoor rain forest in Iowa; $500,000 for a teapot museum; and $100,000 for the Tiger Woods Foundation.

Earmarks circumvent established budgetary processes and procedures and further exacerbate taxpayers’ cynicism of Washington, D.C.  Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has called earmarks “the gateway drug to spending addiction in Washington.” 

In 2010, the House and Senate agreed to a two year moratorium on earmarks, yet there were reports of Congress backsliding on this promise – with earmarks being found in the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bills.  Bringing back earmarks to “get legislation passed,” is a step backwards and the fiscally conservative members of Congress will not tolerate a return of earmarks.