Chapter 8 - No Stealing   

Remember the “bridge to nowhere”—the planned $398 million bridge in Alaska that was the subject of controversy in the 2008 presidential election? Hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars were to be spent to connect the town of Ketchikan (population 14,000) with 50 residents and the town airport on Gravina Island, despite perfectly adequate ferry service. The bridge was a pet project of Alaska’s congressional delegation, to be funded primarily through a federal earmark. With a span nearly as long as the Golden Gate Bridge, and a height surpassing the Brooklyn Bridge, the “bridge to nowhere” would have carried less than 1% of the traffic of either of those other bridges. 

Defenders of earmarks point out that while projects like the “bridge to nowhere” may waste hundreds of millions of dollars, amounts such as these are just a fraction of the federal budget. While true, the damage earmarks cause to the functioning of our democracy goes far beyond just the waste of taxpayer dollars. Earmarks erode Americans’ trust in the government to spend taxpayer dollars fairly and efficiently. ..they are tempting targets for bribes and kickbacks, which clearly are not legal.

The effect is that earmarks encourage the electorate to vote based on short-term gain, rather than the ability of a legislator to be an effective participant in solving our nation’s problems. An oft-repeated quote, usually ascribed (although likely incorrectly) to Alexis de Tocqueville, is that “the American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money."...[Purchase the book here to keep reading]