When our teenage son shops online with our credit card, my wife and I expect to see an itemized receipt.
We trust him. He's a good, upstanding young man. The itemized receipt confirms it.
Taxpayers should expect the same of Congress.
Because there is no itemized receipt for how Members of Congress want to spend taxpayer money, the explosion of earmarks in recent years has undermined taxpayers' trust in Congress.
Earmark abuse has led to numerous scandals and investigations. In some cases, it has taken Congressmen from the back bench, to the front page, and straight to the penitentiary.
Transparency, accountability, and rigorous oversight are the keys to cutting waste, fraud, and abuse in government. They are also the keys to regaining taxpayers' trust.
After pledging to "drain the swamp," Speaker Nancy Pelosi enacted new rules at the start of the last Congress requiring earmark sponsors to be identified alongside their earmarks in spending bills. Then, in February of this year, House Appropriations Chairman David Obey set forth new guidelines asking Members to post their earmark requests online when submitting them to his Committee for consideration.
Taken at face value, these reforms deserve our applause. Unfortunately, they do not work.