Sen. Scott: Reckless earmarks betray taxpayers and must be stopped

March 7, 2024

Orlando Sentinel
Sen. Rick Scott
March 7, 2024

Washington loves to act like it is smarter than the American people — especially when it comes to deciding how to spend your tax dollars. It’s gross and couldn’t be further from the truth. Hardworking families in Florida and across the country know how the real world works because unlike Washington politicians, they actually live in it. So, when the press and the Biden administration say, “Good news! Inflation is cooling,” nobody in the real world is buying it because they see that it’s a lie every day.

Since Joe Biden took office, inflation has exploded 17.9%. Prices on everything, especially groceries, are sky high and hardworking Americans aren’t able to keep up. So think about what that means: if you haven’t seen your pay rise by more than 17.9% since January 2021, then you are behind because of President Biden’s inflation. Unless we see significant deflation, which will only happen if we cut spending, there won’t be relief from the massive damage that Biden’s inflation has caused. One of the best ways to cut reckless spending is to stop earmarks. Given that the recent “minibus” spending bill announced by congressional leadership had 605 pages of earmarks with 6,600 projects costing more than $12 billion, it’s clear that we have a lot of work to do.

Earmarks are pet projects that only benefit the out-of-touch Washington elite. These projects are not properly vetted and they aren’t voted on separately by members of Congress. Earmarks are rotten pork-barrel spending that is loved by Washington because it lets politicians force American taxpayers to be their political piggybank.

In the Senate alone, members requested more than 19,000 earmarks for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer accounted for more than 1,200 earmarks requests to waste your tax dollars. Thankfully, not all of his requests were granted, but somehow we still ended up with more than 600 pages of earmarks in just the first half of the FY 2024 government spending package. We don’t know yet how many more will come in the next half, but it’s safe to assume we could see hundreds more pages dedicated to wasteful spending.

These earmarks aren’t a big list of the things that most Americans agree are core functions of the federal government like highways or our national defense. Here are just a few examples of what’s included in the FY 2024 earmarks list:

  • $1 million for an environmental justice center in New York City;
  • $3.5 million for a Thanksgiving parade in Michigan;
  • And $1 million for a social justice center in San Francisco to make building improvements.

The U.S. national debt is nearly $35 trillion. That’s about $6.5 trillion more than it was when Biden took office. Here’s an even more disturbing figure: Since January 2023, the national debt has grown by more than $3 trillion. This explosion of America’s national debt is a grave threat to the stability and security of our country — and it’s not going to stop unless we force change and end reckless spending.

Some things are nice to have and then there are actual needs. Earmarks are reckless all the time, but when America is $35 trillion in debt, these special pet projects are a betrayal of the fiduciary duty Congress owes to American taxpayers. Earmarks cannot continue if Congress is serious about both paying down the debt and actually protecting the things that really matter to American families — like funding our national defense and protecting and preserving the benefits of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.

As someone who grew up in public housing and watched my mom struggle to put food on the table every day for our family and paid taxes all her life, I am especially furious at just how much failure in Washington is hurting hardworking families in Florida and all across the country.

That’s why I introduced a resolution in the Senate this week that condemns the use of earmarks, reaffirms the previous ban on the use of earmarks which should be immediately restored, and demands that Washington rein in overspending to help curb the inflation crisis that is crippling the families of the United States.

If we truly intend to protect and preserve the critical programs and core services and responsibilities of the federal government, we have to cut the reckless spending like earmarks. If nothing changes, the interest on our debt, which is already costing us $870 billion this year — more than we spend on defense — will keep going up. If we fail, the government soon won’t be able to keep its promises. It’s time to put American taxpayers first and end earmarks for good.

Republican Rick Scott represents Florida in the U.S. Senate. He is a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Budget and the former governor of Florida.