George Will

In 1991, the 546 pork projects in the 13 appropriation bills cost $3.1 billion. In 2005, the 13,997 pork projects cost $27.3 billion for things like improving the National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio (Packard, an automobile brand, died in 1958).

Washington subsidizes the cost of water to encourage farmers to produce surpluses that trigger a gusher of government spending to support prices. It is almost comforting that $2 billion is spent each year paying farmers not to produce. Farm subsidies, most of which go to agribusinesses and affluent farmers, are just part of the $60 billion in corporate welfare that dwarfs the $29 billion budget of the Department of Homeland Security.

Brian Riedl of The Heritage Foundation reports that Congress responded to the Korean War by setting priorities, cutting one-fourth of all nonwar spending in one year. Recently the House failed to approve an unusually ambitious effort to cut government growth. This is today's ambitiousness: attempting -- probably unsuccessfully -- to cut government growth by $54 billion over five years.

That is $10.8 billion a year from five budgets projected to total $12.5 trillion, of which $54 billion is four-tenths of 1 percent. War is hell but, on the home front, it is indistinguishable from peace, except that the government is more undisciplined than ever.

Gerard Alexander of the University of Virginia wonders whether conservatives' cohesion is perishing because it was a product of the period when conservatives were insurgents against dominant liberals. About limited-government conservatism, he says:

"Perhaps conservatives were naive to expect any party, ever, to resist rent-seeking temptations when in power. Just as there always was something fatally unserious about socialism -- its flawed understanding of human nature -- is it possible that there has also been something profoundly unserious about the limited-government agenda? Should we now be prepared for the national electoral wing of the conservative movement -- the House and Senate caucuses and executive branch officials -- to identify with legislation like the pork-laden energy and transportation bills, in the same way that liberals came to ground their identities in programs like Social Security?''

Perhaps. But if so, limited-government conservatives will disassociate from a Republican Party more congenial to overreaching social conservatives. Then those Republican congressional caucuses will be smaller, and Republican control of the executive branch will be rarer.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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