When his personal approval ratings were far higher than they are now, President Bush might have succeeded in reducing the size and cost of government. Instead, he chose "compassionate conservatism" as his doctrine and big-government conservatism (which is a contradiction) as his calling.
Now the president, who has not vetoed a single bill in more than five years in office, wants Congress to give him line-item veto power. Lawmakers are unlikely to do so for the same reason a drunk might question the commitment of Alcoholics Anonymous if that organization were handing out free samples of liquor at its sobriety meetings.
"Too many bills passed by Congress include unnecessary spending," said the president in his message to Congress that accompanied his line-item veto request. But that unnecessary spending didn't begin this year. It's been going on for a long time. Even Bill Clinton vetoed 82 spending items, saving $2 billion over five years before an earlier line-item veto law was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The Bush administration says the proposed new bill addresses the objections the court had in the previous measure.
The president might have more credibility on this if he had tried to stop unnecessary spending. Even if Congress had overridden his vetoes, he could still claim it as an issue. He can't now.
According to Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), "The number of pork-barrel projects in the federal budget has skyrocketed from 1,439 in fiscal 1995 to 13,997 in fiscal 2005, an increase of 873 percent. Among the $27.3 billion of pork identified in the 2005 Congressional Pig Book were $6.3 million for wood utilization research and $2 million to buy back the USS Sequoia Presidential Yacht." If the president did not find this sort of outrageous misspending unnecessary, why should anyone believe he will veto other pork projects, known as earmarks, contained in future legislation?
Anyone who is outraged by out-of-control spending should get CAGW's 2006 Pig Book, which is scheduled for publication April 5, just days before our taxes are due. A preview can be found at cagw.org.
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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