New Congress Begins With Progress on Earmarks

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Now we’re talking:

The chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees on Tuesday jointly vowed to slice the level of earmarks while providing unprecedented disclosure of Member requests.

House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) and Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said that starting with the fiscal 2010 appropriations bills, when Members make their earmark requests, they will be required to post the requests on their Web sites explaining the purpose of the earmark and why it is a valuable use of taxpayer funds….

The chairmen agreed to cut the overall level of earmarks to 50 percent of the 2006 level for nonproject-based accounts. According to the chairmen, the fiscal 2008 spending bills were already cut 43 percent from the 2006 level, so this means a slight additional reduction.

Earmarks would be held below 1 percent of discretionary spending in future years, they said. That amounts to about $10 billion a year.

Bill Allison at the Sunlight Foundation makes the right point:

This is okay as far as it goes, and in improvement (currently earmark requests don’t have to be disclosed at all), but why these requests can’t be centralized in a searchable, sortable, downloadable database rather than spread across 535 member sites is a bit of a mystery.

The good government community has to get lawmakers to accept transparency and technology. It’s a tall order.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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