It's been almost three weeks since Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.), Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) protested the relatively small expense (estimated at about $1 million) associated with the landing by President Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln to greet returning American troops. All three complained about a "waste" of taxpayers' money and how, if the event was necessary at all, it could have been accomplished at much lower cost.
Normally such concern for wasting our money would be cause for praise, coming as it did from three of the biggest spendthrifts in Congress. But, as so often happens in Washington, these men practice the fiscal opposite of what they preach.
Citizens Against Government Waste (www.cagw.org) has chronicled the cost of pork-barrel projects brought home by Byrd in the 2003 budget at $298 million. Byrd may have diverted more federal money to West Virginia than Saddam Hussein skimmed from the U.N.'s oil-for-food program. In fact, about the only thing not named for Byrd in West Virginia is the state itself. He also managed to pick taxpayer pockets for $150,000 just so he could build another office closer to the Senate floor as a personal convenience.
CAGW calculates Conyers' 2001 congressional waste vote rating at 15 percent (meaning CAGW agreed with just 15 percent of his votes). Waxman received a 16 percent waste vote rating. Such men claim we can't "afford" a tax cut. What we can't afford is ever-increasing amounts of unnecessary spending.
If Democrats desire conversion to fiscal restraint, there are many areas where they could answer President Bush's appeal for reduced spending.
Reason magazine reports this month that the federal government spends $3 billion a year on public opinion surveys, not counting academic studies.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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