Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson wrote an article published by The Federalist on Monday that calls out the recent $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress for $4 billion of earmark spending that means very little to ordinary Americans.
Carson argued that the bill funding government operations came six months late and is loaded down with “nonsensical, state-specific projects” wrongfully charged to federal taxpayers. He noted that Congress is likely hoping that the public will be distracted from egregious earmarks by the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. Carson cited lobster pot removals in Connecticut and LBGT senior housing as examples.
Carson also criticized using a bill meant to fund government operations through the fiscal year as a vehicle for additional foreign aid to Ukraine. He acknowledged that the aid package is important and worthy of discussion and debate. However, he finds the motivations for including the package in the spending bill alarming.
He argued that lawmakers were eager to use aid to Ukraine as a distraction from their failed economic policies leading to surging inflation and diminished ability to achieve homeownership and to let them “pull a fast one on taxpayers” to channel funds to pet local projects.
The criticism went on to point out that the “Wizard of Oz” approach of hiding behind the curtain of a threatened government shutdown and Russian aggression against the West is only designed to saddle Americans with a much larger bill than they realize.
Carson identified some of the more ridiculous earmarks. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons (D-DE) obtained $2 million to study the inequity of access to solar power. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) obtained $100,000 to study the reduction of “whale entanglement risk” and $800,000 for wildfire smoke research contained entirely inside Oregon. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) requested an earmark allocation of $995,000 for whatever “grid resistance and equity in the energy transition” includes.
The piece points out that the return of brazen earmarks to the spending process motivates lawmakers to ignore truly national issues all Americans are concerned with. As spending bills become more obscured from public view, the cash grabs for local special interests and political cronies increase.