I just watched Bill Moyer's Journal on PBS and was especially saddened by the piece on Congressional "earmarks". Earmarks are special spending amendments attached to spending bills that give money to specific contractors by our elected officials. According to Bill only 13 of the 535 members of Congress do NOT attach special earmarks for special interests. The fact that the recipients of these earmarks are loyal contributors to the campaigns of the members of Congress who write the spending bills seems particularly egregious. The few examples that Moyers reported on were for federal purchases of materials that were not usable or not wanted by the specific branch for which they were purchased. The legislators defended their actions by saying that the government spending was an important boost to the economy of the legislator's district.
I have often felt that the lure of power and influence always overcomes the best intentions of our elected officials. It becomes too easy to say "every body's doing it and we need to get our piece of the pie for our district". The system is so large and so well entrenched that I fear it will only get worse. The millions spent by lobbyists grease every body's hands and those who resist soon find that they must go along to get along. We always hear complaints about $6000 toilet seats in airplanes but seldom hear about the billions spent by the government for a powerful congress person's earmarks. People complain about the money spent on welfare but are unaware of the welfare payments handed out special interests. Earmarks in the defense budget alone are more that the entire federal welfare budget. The next time you hear a businessman complain about the welfare cheats ask him how he feels about earmarks for his particular industry. They all get money.