Cal  Thomas

Congress returns to work in a few days, which means that the unrestrained raiding of the public purse through wasteful and unnecessary spending is likely to continue.

The National Taxpayers Union Foundation has compiled a useful report on the misspending of the 108th Congress. While most parents would not allow such free spending by their college student children, Congress not only spends with few restraints, it does so with few complaints from the people who earn the money.

This might be more understandable if Democrats were running the government, but that overspending is taking place under Republican leadership is something like a virtue monitor succumbing to vice.

According to the NTUF, misspending is bad and getting worse. Excluding the growth in entitlement spending, not a single member of the 108th Congress had a net voting record that would have reduced overall outlays. Over the course of the Congress, the average House member supported $386.9 billion in additional net discretionary spending. That's up from $192.3 billion during the 107th Congress (a 101 percent increase) and up 1,760 percent from the 105th Congress where the figure was a "miserly" $20.8 billion. Spending in the Senate is up 873 percent over the same period, according to NTUF calculations.

Congress appears to be succumbing to an attitude that says as long as rape is inevitable; members should relax and enjoy it. In 2003, four attempts to reduce spending in various appropriations bills by a paltry 1 percent were defeated in the House. In 2004, three such amendments also lost.

Republicans are now engaging in behavior identical to that of the Democrats they used to criticize when that party ran the House for 40 years. The Republican leadership is less inclined to allow votes on bills to reduce spending, which is forcing those members still interested in protecting the public purse to attempt to cut spending through floor amendments, a more difficult process.

NTUF data shows the bipartisan nature of spending. Significant differences only appear among Senate Democrats and Republicans, but even there the "low" party (Republican) average was nearly half a trillion dollars.

The chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Jim Nussle, Iowa Republican, sought to remind his party of its smaller-government, less-spending roots when he introduced a budget reform measure last year designed to impose caps on discretionary spending. The bill was defeated by a substantial majority (146 in favor and 268 opposed. 72 Republicans voted against it).

Cal Thomas

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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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