Fiscal Hypocrisy

Some GOP lawmakers preach fiscal responsibility yet refuse to kick earmark addiction, DeMint shines again

Today, the hotly-contested $410 billion omnibus spending bill was signed by President Barack Obama after passing in a disconcertingly easy fashion in both the House and Senate. For more than a week, we’ve heard endless discussion and debate regarding the bill, much of it focused on the 8,000-plus earmarks included within its pages.

Honestly, with regard to this particular bill, I’ve said what I needed to say about the Democrats’ spending practices and about the additional promises broken by President Obama, the most recent of which being promises for earmark reform made not only on the campaign trail but also at today’s signing. The stark contrast between those empty promises and his decision to sign this porcine monstrosity today only reaffirms the idea that, barely 50 days into this new administration, it shouldn’t take a genius to know exactly what to expect from the White House, and exactly what to expect from Harry Reid’s Senate and Nancy Pelosi’s House. For that reason, while the extent of the pork-barrel spending was certainly frustrating, while the overt nature in which past promises were broken and the brazen nature in which new empty promises were made was certainly maddening, it was by no means surprising.

Where I was more than a bit surprised, frustrated and dismayed, however, was seeing the number of Republicans who refused to walk the walk when it came to fiscal restraint and responsibility. In fact, six of the top ten earmarking senators were Republicans, with Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby in for the silver medal overall with $114 million in earmarks. Now, Shelby may be a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and surely at least a little of that money will be headed for my Alma Mater, Auburn University, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less irritated at the sheer hypocrisy from a Republican or frustrated at the ill effects of such practices on our nation’s economy.

This is a time when temptation and the trappings of power should take a back seat to an honest assessment of the economic troubles facing our nation and the emerging tendencies of a spendthrift Congress. The concept of fiscal responsibility, after all, should not be reserved for parroted talking points in the face of a pending vote on a bloated spending bill or federal budget, but rather practiced in everyday governance, as part of a principled approach to leadership. The current economic downturn requires fiscal restraint for two primary reasons — not only as the right thing to do for America, but as the right thing to do, politically, with regard to the future of the Republican Party and conservative movement in this country.

In terms of curbing earmarks for political reasons, it all boils down to saying one thing and doing another. Hypocrisy is the death knell of American politics, especially for Republicans and conservatives who, every day, face disproportionate scrutiny from the left-leaning mainstream press. Instead of pointing fingers at The New York Times or blaming MSNBC for overt liberal bias, however, Republicans and conservative leaders alike should work proactively to eliminate that which the media can latch upon — much in the same way a firearm destined for concealed carry is dehorned, the corners smoothed out so as not to catch on a shirt or jacket in an emergency.

As we prepare to battle President Obama and the Democrats over continued out-of-control spending, congressional Republicans will continue to be rightfully vulnerable to salient arguments from Democrats due to their own spendthrift tendencies over the past two-plus years. Politicans and pundits on the left scored valid points during the recent debate over the so-called “stimulus” bill by pointing out examples of reckless spending by GOP leaders during the latter half of the final term of the Bush administration — why give them the opportunity to do the same with regard to earmark reform and the next round of spending from Speaker Pelosi and her stable of flying monkeys?

Fortunately, one person in particular on Capitol Hill gets it. And, once again, that lawmaker is South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint. No earmarks, no regrets.

According to the American Conservative Union, DeMint scored a perfect 100 in 2008 with regard to the group’s ratings based upon legislative conduct. DeMint’s attitude toward the earmark process is not only reflective of that conduct and his priorities, but should be the standard by which the GOP conducts itself in this period of economic duress and expanding federal government.

“Sen. DeMint, as he likes to say, is a ‘recovering earmarker’ who stopped earmarking after 2006 because it became apparent to him that there was no way to genuinely fight for true reform in the system while continuing to operate within the earmark favor factory,” a spokesman for the South Carolina senator told America’s Right this afternoon. “To truly reform the system, you have to go cold turkey, and for that reason he called for a moratorium on that practice so we could truly pass the reforms so desperately needed — and that’s hard to do while you’re still involved in it.”

Breaking the addiction to earmarks not for political reasons but because it’s the right thing to do for America is more difficult, especially when the GOP is hampered by outspoken fiscal conservatives like Texas Congressman Ron Paul rationalizing the practice. Paul had $14 million in solo earmarks and more than $73 million in joint earmarks in the bill signed today, and has in the past defended his practices by arguing that his constituents are paying taxes and should be given something in return.

Don’t get me wrong — I get that excuse. I understand it. I also understand the idea that one man’s earmark is another man’s vital national project, and that the pressure on congressmen and senators alike to “bring home the bacon”–in more ways than one–must at times be absolutely crushing.

DeMint’s spokesman was quick to mention, however, that the South Carolina senator has said on several occasions before that “the only oath of office taken by congressman and senators when they arrive here on Capitol Hill is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.” They do not, he said, take an oath “to get as much as they can from the federal government for their own projects back home.” And he’s right. Sen. DeMint and those like him, congressmen and senators who both took no earmarks and voted against the bill riddled with them, are doing far more for their own constituents–and for all of us–by setting an example of fiscal responsibility than by bringing home taxpayer money for the local fish hatchery.

“State and local governments are the entities charged with taking care of state and local needs,” DeMint’s spokesman told America’s Right. “Federal representatives are there to look after national priorities and to protect and defend the Constitution. Sen. DeMint is of the opinion that, on the federal level, the people of South Carolina are better served by keeping more of their own tax dollars instead of sending them to Washington, D.C. to be spent on pork projects.”

“That being said, if there are projects around the country that people consider to be vital projects, then they should be debated on, and voted on, and go through a meritorious system that weeds out wasteful projects,” he said. “The current earmark system is not based on any merit, but instead on seniority on the appropriations committee and seniority in Congress. It is not based upon what project is in the best interests of the nation, it is based on who has the most power at the committee table when they’re writing these bills.”

Of course, research must be done, bridges must be built, and some projects must be funded. It’s understandable. What is not understandable, however, is how congressional Republicans in particular have no problem citing the need for fiscal restraint in showing solidarity against the White House’s rampant spending practices, yet relish in the opportunity to feed at the taxpayer trough when given the chance on a more personal level.

For the good of our nation, this system must be reformed. The earmark process as we know it now is fraught with recklessness, waste and corruption, with no story in recent memory epitomizing the latter better than that of ex-Senate aide Ann Copland who, just yesterday, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud after accepting $25,000 in bribes taken in exchange for earmarks. Copland will serve jail time, according to a Roll Call article, as she “admitted to exchanging official activities–including designating appropriations earmarks–for tickets to events including baseball and football games, ice skating competitions and concerts such as Green Day, ‘N Sync and Paul McCartney.”

Actual earmark reform, pardon the phrase, would be true, tangible change I could believe in. Between you and me, however, just like I laughed at the White House’s summit on fiscal responsibility held before the ink dried on the $787 billion spending bill, I don’t buy empty promises of earmark reform made by a president who, moments later, sat down and signed legislation filled with earmarks. Not to mention making such promises through use of a presidential signing statement, only two days after he publicly questioned his predecessor’s use of such declarations and insisted that he would refrain from doing so as often himself.

If conservatives want this change, we must create it. In order to do so, however, the hypocrisy on our side must stop. This is our opportunity, as conservative supporters of a small, limited government, to display for all to see the glaring differences between us and our big-government counterparts on the left.

Former President George W. Bush and the Republican leadership failed with regard to fiscal restraint and responsibility during the past four years and, as a result, have supplied those on the political left with ammunition and arguments to bring out during any discussion or debate about the American economy. This is our chance, this is our moment — let’s not provide our adversaries on Capitol Hill with further arguments.

Talk the talk, walk the walk, stick to conservative principles, and we will succeed. Falter, waver, or abandon principles in favor of political expediency, and the outcome will be far less certain.

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Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

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     To examine all aspects of the federal government by initiating its own investigations.
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  2. FLUSH2010 says:

    It’s sad that Sen. Demint might just end up collateral damage if we can get patriots to vote EVERYBODY out. That’s what is desperately needed on Hospice Hill. And pooh on the Founders for not envisioning term limits.

  3. Let us move forward says:

    Set National Priorities that are good for the whole nation and stick with them. Set reasonable limits on spending and save the rest.

    Simple isn’t it. Just what responsible ordinary folks do with their own money. Then you have money when you really need it.

  4. dc says:

    This illegitimate acting Prez needs to be kicked out and sent out of America + the rest of the anti-American dem[on]‘s.

    There’s no word to express the shamefulness, disgrace and perversion of their greed, vileness and horror – of their hardened hearts.

    What would Reagan do?

  5. CAL says:

    I was so disappointed when I learned that republicans had 40% of the earmarks in this last bill. It took away all of their momentum from their stand against the stimulus bill. They cannot be taken seriously as long as they act like a bunch of hypocrites.

  6. Gail B says:

    After looking at your Excel spreadsheet, I found that the letters I mailed today were addressed to the right people. I just didn’t send out enough!

    Did you do the spreadsheet, Jeff? I was blown away by it!

    Gotta go–have more letters to write. Am not sure how long it will be before they “come after me,” because the letters I mailed today weren’t very nice at all. I quoted from Saul Alinsky’s book, and you can imagine “the rest of the story.”

    Excellent job, Jeff. Thanks!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Word is that another “stimulus” bill, this one of about $500 billion, is in the works. The Fools on the Hill are hard at work. . . .

    JV

  8. Jeff Schreiber says:

    Did you do the spreadsheet, Jeff? I was blown away by it!

    Oh, gosh, Gail … no possible way I did that spreadsheet. You know me well enough to know that I barely have time to get more than four hours of sleep each night.

    The spreadsheet was all Taxpayers for Common Sense.

  9. Gail B says:

    Well, it looks like something you would have done.

    As for your time, you’re the only person I know of that can write three chapters of a book during a ten-minute break!

    I heard on the news tonight (while waiting for the weather) that it looks like the housing situation will be improving–in the Atlanta area anyway. Maybe you’ll be able to find just the right place in South Carolina next year. We hope so. The only bad thing about the South (besides an occasional pesky liberal) is the mosquitoes at sundown.

  10. BLOWIN IN THE WIND says:

    Gail,

    And the occasional devastating hurricane… sigh.

  11. toto says:

    You know, Obama had the perfect opportunity to show he means it, about the elimination of pork. But, he blew it, and not only that, he signed this Omnibus Spending bill in private. The ink isn’t even dry yet, and Nancy Pelosi thinks we need to start to think about another bailout, geez when does it stop?

    There is only one thing that Obama said during his campaign,” its above my pay rate”, he’s right about that. Not once has gone against Pelosi on anything, not once. Nancey gets what Nancy wants, makes me wonder what Nancy knows that we don’t know. Can you say birth certificate anyone?

  12. Miguel says:

    Hey Jeff,

    Just wanted to share these links.
    Also, Texas send hundreds of billions of dollars each year to the fed and there is nothing wrong with Dr. Paul trying to get his people back a little of there OWN MONEY! I think people forget that the money in earmarks for the states (citizens) was the states(citizens) money in the first place! If there is members of congress not doing that for the people they are there to represent in the first place then shame on them!

    I could never in clear conscience vote for Senator Demint (as it seems evident that he’s trying to make a name for himself as a GOP leader and I know you really like him) because he believes he should legislate morality as he said in a Silencing The Christians video I watched. Now if he was just a State’s Senator that statement would be fine, however as a US Senator to try and legislate morality is unconstitutional! Moral laws (such as prostitution, drugs, alcohol, etc) are to be left up to the individual State’s (i.e. the citizens of the particular States) per the constitution.

    Here they are. Thanks for all you do!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoD5Yk1imBk

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcLfGS_ToZo

  13. Jan says:

    Yep, the hypocrisy! I am at a loss for words of the followers of this moron. He calls earmarks for pet projects a calamity while with a stroke of the pen signs in more earmarks. He could have just as easily sent it back with instructions to remove the earmarks. No…..we will make a public outcry only after we sign in more earmarks. The part that blows me away is his followers actually think this makes logical sense. I must be missing something…….Oh yeah, the kool aid.

  14. Anonymous says:

    To Miguel:

    On one hand I can understand what you are saying about “legislating morality” by asking myself “how would I like the government dictating personal behavior if I lived in a Muslim country?”, but I think that you need to follow your line of thinking to it’s logical conclusion.

    First, I believe that your argument, if fulfilled, leads to utter chaos because ALL laws have their root in “morality”. You then need to ask yourself “What limits on behavior are acceptable to ALL individuals?” I think you will come to the conclusion that no society can exist without a system of agreed-to limits, so then it becomes a question of what do we agree to as the basis for determining those limits?

    In our case, as a nation, we should all be able to agree that the Constitution provides that social contract. It follows then, if one looks closely at the Constitution, Judeo/Christian principles and values are inextrically intertwined in it. Hence, I can’t help but believe that the founders intended that we legislate morality with every law that we make. I often say that government’s only legitimate roll is to take actions which counteract and minimize the damage that fallen human nature, left to it’s natural,narcissistic, impulses, inevitably creates.

    It’s fine if you do not agree with Judeo/Christian principles, and it’s also fine to object to the “government” promoting or subsidizing one brand of religious practices over another, but I don’t think that it’s fair to say that legislating morality is out of bounds.

    As for me, and as I’ve said before, I’m perfectly happy with the idea of “Judeo/Christian” values pervading our society because I know of no other total remedy for evil than for everyone to “have the mind of Christ within them”. Although I wouldn’t desparage your viewpoint, I would issue a challenge to you that if you know of a better plan for humanity than the one that Jesus Christ preached, let me know.

    Old Bob

  15. Miguel says:

    To Bob,

    I appreciate your words and your tone. It’s nice to disagree in a civil manner. It seems that us conservatives do that well!

    As far as your comments about ALL laws having there basis in morality, I couldn’t agree more. I am a Christian first and foremost and do believe that our country was founded on Judeo/Christian principles. My point is that the constitution in the Tenth Amendment clearly states that whatever is not in the constitution is to be left up to the states. Of course I don’t have a problem with the federal government legislating those moral laws that would protect the 3rd party like murder, theft, rape etc (but even on those the citizens of each state would, I’m positive, make sure those laws would be on the books even if the federal government didn’t have them). But even those laws weren’t what DeMint was talking about. He was talking about gay marriage. It’s ludicrous that that issue is even up before the United States Congress! I believe that the citizens of the states along with the states elected representatives are the ones who were meant to vote on issues like drugs, prostitution, marriage etc (even in places like liberal California the citizens voted to ban gay marriage. And if our elected “leaders” would follow the constitution and stop the supreme court from legislating then California wouldn’t be going through the court battles over the vote because it would have ended at the polls)

    IMHO, the federal government was never intended by the founders to protect us from ourselves.

    Like I said before if De Mint was speaking as a State Senator what he said would be fine. However, as a US Senator it is unconstitutional since the constitution states that whatever isn’t in it is to be left up to the states. I certainly don’t want drugs and prostitution running rampant in my state (I live in Texas so that would never happen) but you cant tell me that the DEA has done a good job keeping drugs off our streets and away from our kids. But the one thing they have done is cost us trillions of dollars and turned people who use hemp for medical reasons into criminals. Again, look at California where the federal law is super-ceding the states law! That is never supposed to happen but it does happen when there is a federal law protecting me from me. My sister has metal rods in her back and smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes helps her to function. But nope! It’s illegal. So, guess what the doctors gave her. Oxycontin!! Her tolerance grows daily so the drug dealer(i.e. the doctor) keeps raising the dose! This stuff makes her crazy but it’s legal?!?

    I am a traditional conservative and unfortunately the Republican Party has been over run by Neoconservatives and they have totally caused the GOP to lose all credibility. The Neoconservatives and the liberals don’t bother following the very document they swore to uphold. I feel that we need true traditional conservatives to take back the GOP, follow the constitution so they can fix the mess that we have today from not following it in the first place! Unfortunately, IMHO I feel DeMint is a Neoconservative and that isn’t the brand of conservatism I am willing to support.

    Miguel

  16. Miguel says:

    Here is an article that explains what I’m trying to say far better that I ever could!

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/yates/yates41.html

  17. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Miguel, for your kind and reasonable response. Would that more discussions or debates be held in such a tone. Without such, we really don’t know that there is a disagreement.

    I’ve got to run at the moment, but I will read the posting that you referenced when I get back.

    Old Bob

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