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It's the Little Things that Count

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Whether it’s a couple million for their district or $25 million for their husbands (hey, she’s not the Speaker for nothing!), Democrats are still up to their old earmark ways, despite a bold pledge in the 2006 election to end “runaway spending.” Now I know politicians’ promises last about as long as a New Year’s resolution, but c’mon, this is the singular issue that upsets Joe Six-Pack more than any other, in my opinion. The majority of Americans don’t have money to waste, and they hate seeing their government throwing it down the drain for stupid, selfish reasons.

And I recently read that David Obey (D-Wis.) – the King of all Kings of wasteful spending – is sending around some lame, two-question survey to his fellow Democrats in what is nothing more than internal cover for his party to blow the lock off the Treasury.

For those following along at home, the House Appropriations Committee Chairman is peddling a questionnaire to his colleagues, essentially asking them, “If it is responsible, would you like to jack the taxes of every American to pay for your porky pig ways?” Okay, maybe he didn’t quite use those words, but you get the point.

Speaker Pelosi presumably signaled her support for such shenanigans, even telling the press corps last week that she “didn’t want to talk about it.” Huh? If the party claims to insist on a change to pork barreling, shouldn’t they at least behave like they’re interested? Or how about this senseless statement from Obey, “I have never been for earmarks but I have always accepted them as a member of the House.” This is exactly how we want our politicians and lawmakers behaving - like middle school kids who don’t want to cut class, but go along with the crowd to remain liked.

If Obey’s fellow Democrats return the questionnaire saying, “Yes, I will make this tough decision and agree to more spending…” then you can expect they’ll trot out the tired line to the public that, “It’s only $x million for my district, and besides they need that money,” or how about “Heck, that’s less than three days of Pentagon spending in Iraq!” This is business as usual for the Democrats; they walk around promising big change, but when push comes to shove, they really have no backbone to stand up for fiscal responsibility and the best interest of all Americans.

Remember the Omnibus budget bill? Congress went on another budget spending spree just before leaving town for Christmas in 2007 and guest who paid for all the goodies. You are right – the taxpayers. Many feel they acted responsibly in hurriedly passing an omnibus budget bill because, in combination with earlier defense appropriations, it keeps discretionally spending for fiscal 2008 in line with President Bush’s cap of $932 billion. While Congress used different tactics to distort the numbers, Senators and Representatives piled on the pork by earmarking billions to more than 11,300 of their pet projects. As a result – the bill actually puts the government more that $20 billion over budget.

Listen, if we’re ever going to get a grip on the nearly $10 trillion of debt our children and grandchildren will have to cut checks for, we have got to start saying enough is enough, and start drawing the line somewhere. A million dollars in more pork may be a rounding error to some accountant in Washington, but it’s the little things that count, and boy they sure do add up after 10 trillion “rounding errors”.

It’s a good thing that all three presidential candidates have embraced the Senate’s efforts to ban pork spending next year. The publicity these three drum up is unprecedented, so the fact that they are talking about ending pork spending is a good start. The budget amendment sponsored by Senator John McCain “could be the biggest opportunity to change the culture of earmarks we ever have had,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a lead sponsor of the Senate budget amendment. Not only that, but it will force opponents on both sides of the aisle, especially Obey and Pelosi, to either show their true colors by fighting the bill or give in to political and public pressure by supporting the move. Either way, the passing of this amendment is excellent for our country but bad business for lawmakers hoping to build a bridge to nowhere so they can make their career go somewhere.

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