Wise advice on pork spending from Senator Tom Coburn
I have posted numerous times about Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK). He is, in my opinion, one of the few voices of reason in congress. One of the current debates, both pre and post election, has been whether or not the republicans should refrain from “earmarking” (pork). Coburn and Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) have both come out strongly against the practice while some of their colleagues and almost all democrats still favor gorging from the pork trough. In this piece, Coburn dispels the myths of the pro porkers and explains why congress should forgo the practice.
As Senate Republicans prepare to vote on an earmark moratorium, I would encourage my colleagues to consider four myths and four realities of the debate.
Myths of the earmark debate:
1. Eliminating earmarks does not actually save any money
This argument has serious logical inconsistencies. The fact is earmarks do spend real money. If they didn’t spend money, why defend them? Stopping an activity that spends money does result in less spending. It’s that simple. For instance, Congress spent $16.1 billion on pork in Fiscal Year 2010. If Congress does not do earmarks in 2011, we could save $16.1 billion. In no way is Congress locked into to shifting that $16.1 billion to other programs unless it wants to.
2. Earmarks represent a very tiny portion of the federal budget and eliminating them would do little to reduce the deficit
It’s true that earmarks themselves represent a tiny portion of the budget, but a small rudder can help steer a big ship, which is why I’ve long described earmarks as the gateway drug to spending addiction in Washington. No one can deny that earmarks like the Cornhusker Kickback have been used to push through extremely costly and onerous bills. Plus, senators know that as the number of earmarks has exploded so has overall spending. In the past decade, the size of government has doubled while Congress approved more than 90,000 earmarks.
3. Earmarking is about whose discretion it is to make spending decisions. Do elected members of Congress decide how taxes are spent, or do unelected bureaucrats and Obama administration officials?
It’s true that this is a debate about discretion, but some in Congress are confused about discretion among whom. This is not a struggle between the executive branch and Congress but between the American people and Washington. Do the American people have the right to spend their own money and keep local decisions at the local level or does the federal government know best? Earmarks are a Washington-knows-best solution. An earmark ban would tell the American people that Congress gets it. After all, it’s their money, not ours.
4. The Constitution gives Congress the responsibility and authority to earmark
Nowhere does the Constitution give Congress the authority to do earmarks. The concept of earmarking appears nowhere in the enumerated powers or anywhere else in the Constitution. The so-called “constitutional” argument earmarks is from the same school of constitutional interpretation that led Elena Kagan to admit that Congress had the authority to tell the American people to eat their fruits and vegetables every day. That school, which says Congress can do whatever it wants, gave us an expansive Commerce Clause, Obamacare, and a widespread belief among members of Congress that the “power of the purse” is the power to pork.
Beyond these myths, I would encourage members to consider the following realities.
1. Earmarks are a major distraction
Again, earmarks not only do nothing to hold the executive branch accountable — by out-porking the president — but take Congress’ focus away from the massive amount of waste and inefficiency within federal agencies.
2. This debate is over among the American people and the House GOP
If any policy mandate can be derived from the election it is to spend less money. Eliminating earmarks is the first step on that path. The House GOP has accepted that mandate. The Senate GOP now has to decide whether to ignore not only the American people but their colleagues in the House. The last thing Senate Republicans should be doing is legislative gymnastics to get around the House GOP earmark ban.
3. Earmarking is bad policy
In recent years the conventional wisdom that earmarks create jobs has been turned on its head. The Obama administration’s stimulus bill itself, which is arguably a collection of earmarks approved by Congress, proves this point. Neither Obama’s stimulus nor Republican stimulus — GOP earmarks — is very effective at creating jobs.
Harvard University conducted an extensive study this year of how earmarks impact states. The researchers expected to find that earmarks drive economic growth but found the opposite.
4. Earmarking is bad politics
If the Senate GOP wants to send a signal that they don’t get it and are not listening they can reject an earmark moratorium. For Republicans, earmarks are the ultimate mixed message. We’ll never be trusted to be the party of less spending while we’re rationalizing more spending through earmarks. The long process of restoring fiscal sanity in Washington begins with saying no to pork.
Coburn is spot on here. Yet some of his colleagues who were opposed to pork during the campaigns are now having second thoughts. In particular Mitch McConnell (R-KY), senate minority leader, appears to be maneuvering behind the scenes to resist a pork ban. This chinless and spineless douchebag represents everything that is wrong with the national republican party – everything that was rejected by the voters in the elections. (story here)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is maneuvering behind the scenes to defeat a conservative plan aimed at restricting earmarks, setting up a high-stakes showdown that pits the GOP leader and his “Old Bull” allies against Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and a new breed of conservative senators.
In a series of one-on-one conversations with incoming and sitting senators, McConnell is encouraging his colleagues to keep an open mind and not to automatically side with DeMint, whose plan calls on Senate Republicans to unilaterally give up earmarks in the 112th Congress, according to several people familiar with the talks.
While McConnell is not demanding that rank-and-file Republican senators vote against the earmark ban, he’s laying out his concerns that eliminating earmarks would effectively cede Congress’ spending authority to the White House while not making a real dent in the $1 trillion-plus budget deficit. And McConnell is signaling his concern about the awkward politics of the situation: even if the DeMint moratorium passes, Republican senators could push for earmarks, given that the plan is nonbinding and non-enforceable.
The lying rat bastard McConnell was vocal about his support for banning earmarks before the election. Seems like he didn’t get the message. He and his tin ear pro pork republican big spenders do this at their peril.
Jim DeMint is riding this issue hard and it could prove to be a make-or-break moment for the republicans.
DeMint believes that there is growing Republican opposition to earmarks, which have become a symbol of wasteful spending in the wake of the infamous Alaskan “Bridge to Nowhere” and the source of influence-peddling scandals that have rocked Capitol Hill in recent years.
“Sen. DeMint is working with several of his colleagues to unite Senate Republicans with House Republicans by banning earmarks,” said DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton. “Americans rejected business as usual this election, and the conference vote next week will show them Republicans got the message.”
Indeed, a number of observers both in and out of the Senate believe the vote will be close.
“I don’t know whether it will pass,” said one GOP insider. “McConnell is working against it.”
It’s unclear where the full GOP leadership team will come down on the proposal. With McConnell and Alexander as likely “no” votes, three other members — Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona, John Barrasso of Wyoming and South Dakota’s John Thune — have not declared how they will vote. Thune has been mentioned as a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2012, and voting against DeMint’s earmark ban could alienate conservative activists, though he has earmarked himself over the years.
Cornyn supports DeMint’s plan, and Kyl in recent years has taken a harder line on earmarks, signaling a potential split within the leadership over the issue. If the leadership further splinters, it could make it harder for senators like Inhofe to gain traction.
While he called DeMint, McCain and Coburn his friends, Inhofe said they have unfairly seized on a minuscule fraction of the federal deficit to make political hay out of so-called pork-barrel spending.
“And I say that knowing that I will be severely criticized only because people have been brainwashed on this issue,” Inhofe said.
No Inhofe, you douchebag, no one’s been “brainwashed.” You just don’t get it. Action speaks louder than words. Saying you’re for lower spending and smaller government while gorging from the pork trough exposes you for what you really are – a liar and a hypocrite. You and your ilk are the primary reason the public has such a low opinion of congress. Asshole…