Make CFOTM Gifts at CafePress
Hear what Sean and Scott have to say about the title of their book!
Join us on Facebook
Tweet this page:
In the American Constitutional order what are the responsibilities of the Congress and the president with regard to the expenditure of funds?
How did the framers of the Constitution rely on competition between interests to promote the national interests? Do you think that competition can play a productive role in guarding against excess?
What is the significance of the title Cheese Factories on the Moon? Why do you think the authors chose this title?
What is the difference between authorization and appropriations? How are they related to one another? Is one “more important” than the other?
How did the Budget Act change the “balance of power” between the legislative and executive branches of government? Was this a good change? Why or why not?
What criteria do members of Congress often used to winnow down community requests for earmarks? Do you think this can effectively “weed out” undesirable earmarks? What institutional checks are in place to identify undesirable earmark? Is there a way to guarantee that no “bad” earmarks occur?
Describe a pressing need or problem in your community that could be addressed with funding through a congressional earmark. Why do you think that this problem has not been addressed by an appropriate federal bureaucracy? How might an earmark help?
What were the different motivations of the member’s behind earmarking funds for the Predator Drone versus the Human Genome Project? Do the different motivations change your view of these two projects? Do you think these projects would have moved forward eventually without congressional pressure?
How did John Porter’s strategy to allow earmarks for some NIH funding strengthen the position of the NIH in the long term? Does this seem wise to you? Explain.
What is the “valley of death” problem? How do earmarks help mitigate this problem?
Do you think that bureaucratic expertise guarantees that the funding of federal projects will be premised on merit? In a democracy should bureaucratic conceptions of merit necessarily control funding decisions? Why?
What are some of the problems associated with bureaucratic decision-making in a democracy? To what degree does bureaucratic decision-making undermine the American conception of democracy?
What are the four biases discussed in this chapter? Define them. Thinking about a recent news story that you have read how are these biases apparent in the coverage? Are any of these biases missing from the coverage as you see it?
What are the major changes that have taken place in the media landscape over the past several decades? How have those changes shaped the way that the news is covered and what news is reported?
What are some of the barriers individuals and groups face when attempting to influence government? How do lobbying groups help citizens exercise their right to petition the government for “redress of grievances?” Is there some other way that individuals and groups could influence government in the absence of lobbyists?
What responsibility do lobbying groups have for the increase in earmarks over the last few decades? Do you think the increase is solely the fault of lobbyists? Why or why not?
To what degree do you think that partisan concerns drove the increase in earmarks over the last two decades? How do these compare to the culpability of lobbyists for the increase?
To what degree are changes in the Congress responsible for the increase in earmarks? How does this compare to the parties’ and lobbyists’ responsibility for the increase?
Out of 100% what percentage of responsibility would you assign to parties, lobbyists, and institutional changes? Justify each of your percentages.
In this chapter we illustrate the low levels of public trust afforded the U.S. Congress. What is the “paradox of reform?” What kinds of reforms do you think would build public trust in Congress? Will the public ever trust Congress?
Why do you think the authors chose the subtitle for this book “Why Earmarks are Good for American Democracy?” How do earmarks reflect some of the exceptional features of American democracy?
On page 25 we quote Jefferson’s warning to Madison about granting the power of the purse to the legislative branch. Write a letter to Jefferson, from Madison’s perspective, explaining why the power of the purse should be invested in the Congress.
Navigate to the page of the Office of Management and Budget web site and read their definition of an earmark. What kinds of congressional spending, if any, would be allowed under this definition? Explain your thinking.
Using the links to the House of Representatives or the Senate and the web site for one of your members of Congress. Go to member’s web site. Most members of Congress have a “news,” “media,” or “press” link. Find a press release on the member’s site announcing funding for a local project. Do you know anything about this project? How might this project benefit your area or state?
Determine a local, state or national concern that you believe would be a worthy target for federal funding. Given your reading of Chapters 3 and 4, write a letter to your member of Congress with specific advice on gaining an earmark to support this concern. Keep in mind the many criteria that are used in an office to select earmarks that will be forwarded to the Appropriations Committee.
Write a letter to your member of Congress opposing the “line-item veto” based on the argument that it would shift the balance of power between Congress and the executive.
Search the New York Times or the Washington Post for a substantive article on congressional earmarks. Analyze the article using the four biases of the media discussed at the beginning of Chapter 6. To what degree do these biases emerge in the story? Are any of these biases unrepresented in the story?
Find the web site of a Washington-based lobby group (several are mentioned in the book) that advocates for earmarks. Describe the services they offer, the approach they take to serving their clients, and who some of their clients are. What is your impression of this lobby group now that you have learned a little about them?
Go the Citizens Against Government Waste web site. Look for specific information on the organizations who fund CAGW. What could you find? If necessary search other sites to find this information. How might CAGW’s sources of funding influence their analysis of pork barrel projects?
Go to the web site of your House member or Senator (see above for links). Find your member’s earmark requests (all members who request earmarks must post their requests, though they are often hard to find on their sites—keep looking). Of these requests which do you believe are most deserving of funding from the Appropriations Committee and which are less deserving? Why?