Commentary: Sometimes earmarks are a good thing

This editorial appeared in The Myrtle Beach Sun.

There's an undeserved gotcha in this week's McClatchy Newspapers report on S.C. Republican congressmen who are seeking millions in local-project earmarks in the fiscal 2010 federal budget. While it's true that one of the congressmen in question, our own U.S. Rep. Henry Brown, is asking for more than $345 million for the 1st District of South Carolina, it does not follow that he is acting in an un-Republican way.

True, as the story points out, Brown fell into line with other U.S. House Republicans in opposing President Obama's $787 billion stimulus bill, while also describing it as "pork-laden." Coming from him, this was rich, as he properly has concentrated on bagging project money for the Grand Strand and other parts of his district since taking office in 2001.

But local folks chalked Brown's curious behavior up to GOP leadership pressure to deny Obama significant Republican participation in crafting the stimulus. In the end, only three GOP senators supported the bill – enough to get it passed into law.

Furthermore, as Brown points out in his own defense, "Somebody's got to vote each one of these earmark requests up or down." In the stimulus debate, members were asked to vote the entire package up or down.

That's a fair point. Voters next year can decide whether he and the other S.C. Republicans who voted no on the stimulus were right to refuse to take part in the president's program for economic rejuvenation.

Make no mistake: U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., was right to join other fiscal conservatives a few years back in forcing secret earmarks – and the identities of their sponsors and supporters – into the limelight. They were right to force rules changes requiring separate votes on each request.

But earmarks per se are not evil. How can it be wrong for Brown to request $246,000 for retraining laid-off tourism workers in Myrtle Beach, $500,000 for sewer improvements at the budding Myrtle Beach Airport Commerce Park?

To read the complete editorial, visit The Myrtle Beach Sun.

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