Cantor taken an interest in earmarks

CANTOR TAKES AN INTEREST IN EARMARKS…. Oh, good, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has another Politico piece, and this time, it’s about earmarks.

House Republicans took an unprecedented stand in March, imposing an immediate moratorium on earmarks for the remainder of the Congress. Yet, because the governing rules of one Congress cannot bind the next, this moratorium will expire on Jan. 3, 2011. I do not believe that should be allowed to happen.

A lot has happened over the last eight months. Unfortunately none of it has done anything to rein in spending, eliminate waste or send the message to frustrated people across this country that Washington gets it.

That is why the next Republican Conference should immediately move to eliminate earmarks. Should Republicans be elected as the majority party, I believe that we should extend the moratorium to the entire House — to Democrats and Republicans alike…. There is no question that earmarks — rightly or wrongly — have become the poster child for Washington’s wasteful spending binges.

Let’s break this down a bit, because I’m fairly confident Cantor has no idea what he’s talking about.

The first problem, right off the bat, is that earmarks are not really the scourge Republicans have made them out to be. Some earmarks are actually worthwhile, and the rest represent a very small percentage of the budget. Cantor noted they’ve become politically problematic “rightly or wrongly.” But doesn’t the truth matter? If it’s “wrongly,” shouldn’t reality have some bearing on how policymakers proceed?

The second problem is that Cantor and his party couldn’t have any less credibility on the subject. From 1995 to 2005 — the heyday in the House for the GOP majority — the number of earmarks grew by over 400%. That’s not a typo; when Republicans ran the joint, they loved earmarks. The number of earmarks dropped, not under GOP rule, but after Democrats took back the majority in 2006. In other words, Cantor is effectively arguing, “Earmarks a problem, so reject the party that’s made it better, and embrace the party that created the mess in the first place.”

The third problem is that Cantor may not actually mean any of this. He and his caucus unveiled a “Pledge to America” recently, and many conservative groups quickly looked for the party’s commitment to ban earmarks. The promise was noticeably absent.

The fourth problem is that when Cantor claims House Republicans imposed “an immediate moratorium on earmarks” on themselves, it isn’t quite true — several House GOP members continued to request earmarks well after the so-called “moratorium” took effect.

Other than the obvious errors of fact and judgment, though, Cantor’s piece is a real winner.