Hyman Fails to Hold Republicans Accountable
Mark Hyman likes to complain about Congressional waste, as he does in his most recent editorial about “secret earmarks.” The problem is, despite talk about “responsibility” and “accountability,” he doesn’t put the blame where it needs to go.
Often, when noting Congress’s spendthrift habits, Hyman will say something along the lines of “and Republicans haven’t been any better than Democrats when it comes to controlling spending,” subtly reinforcing the right wing talking point that liberals are ideologically more likely to be for wasteful government spending than conservatives, and that it’s surprising the G.O.P. is “just as bad” as the Democrats.
The problem is that the facts run counter to this. Republicans aren’t “just as bad” as Democrats. They’re far worse.
At the risk of being a bit too cutesy and glib for the taste of most readers, this is the short, simple riposte to Hyman:
Here’s your Congress: 1994--$23.2 billion in earmarks for 4,126 projects.
Here’s your Congress on Republicans: 2005—$47.4 billion in earmarks for 15,877 projects.
The one cautionary note I would add is that it’s often easy to slam such spending on general principle, ignoring what the money actually goes for. We can agree that secret earmarks are a shady way of pushing funding through Congress, but often the projects the money goes for are actually worthwhile causes (as opposed to, say, bridges to nowhere).
For example (and in the interest of full disclosure), the college where I currently teach has a fantastic nursing program, one of the best in the state. It’s receiving $200,000 in earmarked federal grants to help fund a multi-state study of ways of retaining nurses in the workforce by measuring what factors lead to nurses leaving their place of employment or dropping out of the profession altogether.
Is that shamefully wasteful spending? As someone who has seen the work that experienced nurses do firsthand, I don’t think so myself, but I’ll leave it for you to decide.
In fact, you can go to an interactive map to see what organizations in your area are receiving federal earmarked money and what it’s going for. You’ll probably find some examples that seem a bit suspicious, but you’ll also see that a lot of the recipients of the money are organizations that are doing good work that actually helps people. To suggest that this money is wasted but that tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent of Americans is sound fiscal policy is a tough position to defend.
Not that the process of earmarking itself is a desirable way to run a government. But often, these attacks on the process are actually attacks on the very idea that government funds should be invested in services at all. When we object to the freewheeling spending of the Republicans in Congress (and we should), we shouldn’t get sucked into the position of saying investing in worthwhile projects is something do be done away with.
What we want is smarter investment of the public’s money in ways that will benefit Americans, not simply the donors who fill Congressional coffers.
There’s a simple first step to accomplish this: vote for a Democratic Congress in November.
And that’s The Counterpoint.
Hyman Index: 4.98