Earmarks are the new feather bedding

Houston Chronicle:

The Pentagon insists it has enough C-17 Globemaster jets, which are partly manufactured in Texas and used by the Air Force to ferry troops and weapons to hot spots around the globe.

Nevertheless, lawmakers from the Lone Star State and elsewhere recently inserted in a defense authorization bill a requirement that the military buy 10 more aircraft at a cost of $2.4 billion.

The project is among the billions of dollars of earmarks, or special funding items, tucked into several defense measures recently approved by the House and Senate for the coming fiscal year.

The number of earmarks is down from previous years as they are increasingly criticized as legislative tricks that avoid competitive bidding and grant application processes and are performed at the behest of lobbyists. Supporters say they allow lawmakers, rather than unelected bureaucrats, to decide where government money goes.

But the huge defense bills remain a major source of earmark funding for lawmakers seeking job-creating, home-state projects— not all of them directly related to military issues.


Most of the earmarks are for equipment and research not included in the budget submitted by the Pentagon.

''Every dollar that is going to a particular earmark or a C-17 (aircraft) is a dollar that isn't going to other higher priority items in the federal budget," said Steven Ellis, vice president for Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group that scrutinizes earmarks.

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England warned Congress about the ramifications of funding more C-17s.

''If we keep putting money into C-17s, then frankly, money comes out of some other investment category," he said.

But lawmakers defend programs that provide jobs and business to constituents.


There is much more and other earmarks are discussed, but buying unneeded C-17's is a particularly egregious form of feather bedding. The Air Force needs to replace its 50 plus year old tanker fleet but instead we are forced to waste money on unneeded C-17. It highlights what is wrong with the earmark process and why it needs to be eliminated.

Feather bedding was the term used to describe union demands that peoples whose jobs were no longer needed be kept employed. Thus you had coal shovelers employed on diesel driven trains or line-o-type operators retyped wire service stories that came with tape that would replicate the story automatically into hot type. Now we keep people building planes that are no longer needed instead of planes that are needed.


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