Senator McConnell and others have brushed aside earmarks as insignificant. Senator McConnell points to ear marks as a small percentage of the budget, just as Vice President Biden has done. He is correct, the numbers are the numbers. The Senator sees the negative perception of earmarks as a matter of “discretion”. He may be correct there as well, to some degree. The Senator points out that earmarks are not the problem with, or the solution to, the fiscal crisis on the horizon; he leaves the impression that it is an insignificant financial issue. Again, he is correct.
He is also comprehensively wrong!
There is symbolism associated with earmarks. The symbolism revolves around the perception of corruption and the belief that corruption has become an integral part of how Congress works. Perception also revolves around the belief that Congress is incapable of rising above provincial concerns to address the large issues that face us unless somehow “bought off” by the earmark process. The Senator should be reminded that perception is political reality!
If indeed, earmarks are insignificant why not swear off them? Why not apply a strong symbol of new thinking in Congress? Why not take advantage of the opportunity to begin to turn around the public’s negative perception of how Congress conducts its business? The failure to do so reinforces current negative perceptions.
The pregnant question to Republicans from the electorate; “do they really, get it, did they really hear the message?” On the earmark issue the answer is, so far; not even close!