Jonah Goldberg

The gold standard in contemptuous politics remains emperor Caligula's appointment of his horse, Incitatus, to the Roman senate. Well, Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is getting some long delayed senatorial payback.

Figuratively speaking, Reid plans to drop on the president's desk a steaming pile of what Incitatus used to deposit on the stable floor. This sack of non-shinola goes by the technical name of an omnibus spending bill. It wraps together all of the appropriations bills of the last year into a single $1.2 trillion monstrosity so laden down with spending grotesqueries that it comes out to more than $623 million a page -- and it's 1,924 pages long. By my rough estimate, that's about $3.1 million per word.

It's a bold gambit by Reid and the Democrats, who failed to pass a single appropriations bill all year -- a historic first. Now, a lame-duck Congress that shouldn't be convening at all wants to use a looming deadline vote on raising the national-debt ceiling to cram through legislation that will make the budget and the deficit continue to balloon like Marlon Brando in his later years.

Like Lloyd Bridges in "Airplane!" picking the wrong week to stop sniffing glue, the Democrats have chosen a bad moment to stick to their old ways. We had this thing called an "election" just over a month ago, in which the American people said no more of this horse-stable-filler.

St. Augustine famously said "Lord, make me chaste, but not yet," and that's the basic rationale driving Reid. This is one last trip to the fiscal cathouse before joining the monastery -- which is why this mess comes with $8 billion in earmarked trinkets for the trollops.

But it's important to understand that earmarks aren't the problem. I mean, who among us can second-guess Reid's effort to spend $1 million on arthropod damage in his home state? (I'm giving Reid the benefit of the doubt that these are huge mutant arthropods created by nuclear testing in the Nevada desert, like the giant ants in "Them!")

Earmarks are political bribes, inducing politicians to vote for bad laws they'd otherwise oppose. Few sane people would vote for this crazy parody of everything voters hate about Washington if there weren't something in it for them. That's why the omnibus bill provides $2.5 million for bike paths in Illinois that residents of Illinois don't think are worth paying for with their own dollars, and $307,000 for more research on "small fruits." (Why are they so small? Did they smoke cigarettes in their youth, stunting their growth?)


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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