"There are only two ways of telling the complete truth—anonymously and posthumously."Thomas Sowell

Monday, September 12, 2005

Federal Budget Bloat

In a forthcoming article in the October issue of Budget and Tax News (of which this author is senior editor), published by The Heartland Institute, Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute provides an excellent analysis of the causes behind the rapidly increasing federal expenditures of the Bush years, beyond the response to 9/11 and the War in Iraq. After documenting the extent of the increases, Edwards correctly places the responsibility directly on the Republicans in control of both Houses of Congress:

The number of federal pork projects increased from fewer than 2,000 annually in the mid-1990s to almost 14,000 in 2005, as measured by Citizens Against Government Waste. Other data indicate the number of federal “earmarks” increased from 4,155 in 1994 to 15,584 in 2005. . . .

In the past, the Kings of Pork were mainly Democrats such as Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia and former Representatives Tom Bevill of Alabama and Jamie Whitten of Mississippi.

Today, the leading pork spenders are Republicans such as Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Don Young of Alaska, and Senators Trent Lott and Thad Cochran of Mississippi. Republicans promised to cut wasteful spending when they were elected to the majority in 1994. But today few seem embarrassed by the record levels of pork.

This year Congress will dish out $426 billion on grants to lower levels of government for a myriad of local activities in 2005, according to the Fiscal 2006 budget.

Most earmarks fund activities that are properly the responsibility of state and local governments or the private sector. . . .

The problem starts at the top: Republican leaders have shown no personal restraint on the budget. House Speaker Dennis Hastert is a champion at bringing pork home to Illinois. The Washington Post noted in a July 17, 2004, article that Hastert “makes a habit of helping Illinois-based corporations,” such as Boeing, Caterpillar, and United Airlines.

Hastert’s giveaways have included trying to get United Air Lines a $1.6 billion loan guarantee and adding $250,000 to a defense bill for a candy company in his hometown to study chewing gum. The lack of principled GOP leadership has a corrosive effect on members who may be willing to support restraint but who will not put their necks on the line without sacrifice at the top. Why should rank-and-file Republicans restrain themselves when their leader is the porker-in-chief? . . .

. . . [T]he pork explosion highlights the need for Congress to overhaul its budgeting structures to get a grip on the overspending that has created huge deficits.

Republican members should insist that party leaders stop undermining restraint by using their positions for parochial gain. They ought to stop supporting leaders who call themselves conservatives just because they favor tax cuts. The real litmus test for fiscal conservatism is leadership on spending cuts and a willingness to forgo pork to set a good example for the rest of Congress.


Tlaloc said...

Fiscal conservativism is one of the areas in which I agree with Paleocons. Government should never be allowed to run a deficit unless of a national emergency that actually requires it and then it should be paid off as quickly as possible.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

Bush has yet to see a spending bill he doesn't like. That is unfortunate, to say the least.