This little jab at John McCain (who visited Iowa against the recommendation of the governor) addresses something that really bugs me: the tendency to equate federal spending with excessive government spending. Earkmarks offer the opportunity for congressmen to pay back allies for local support and fund projects that have no rationale, but they also are the best substitute for a fundamental weakness of the federal system of administration: there is no bureaucracy or infrastructure to direct federal spending at the district level. There is no discretionary budget for congressional districts to help them deal with problems that cannot be covered by local revenue. There is also no decision-making or consultation taking place at the district level on how to best use earmarks. Equating earmarks and pork, McCain depletes whatever resources districts might have to seek improvements (especially important given the shortfalls of revenue in the face of declining property values). A better use of his time would be arguing for symmetry between the funds available to members of congress and the needs of the people they represent.

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