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Twilight of the Big Spender

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

WASHINGTON -- This has been a rotten week for big spending, liberals and President Obama, and a great one for conservatives in the effort to reduce the size and cost of government.

Senate Democrats were having a hard time rounding up support for a muscular alternative to the House Republicans' $61 billion, mid-year budget-cutting plan. The Democrats' alternative -- essentially keeping spending where it is and running up a $1.6 trillion deficit -- has become the laughing stock of the nation.

National Public Radio -- the liberals' holy grail of big government propaganda -- has been hit by a series of embarrassing scandals, which have strengthened the case for ending taxpayer-funded public broadcasting entirely.

NPR's chief executive has resigned under pressure after the network's top fundraiser attacked Republicans as "anti-intellectual," called tea party activists "racists," and suggested that Jews controlled the nation's newspapers. He gave conservative budget cutters even more ammunition to use in their crusade to end public broadcasting when he acknowledged that NPR could do just fine without government subsidies.

In the meantime, conservatives have won a major victory in Wisconsin -- in what has become a nationwide battle to slash state-government spending -- by significantly curtailing collective bargaining for public employees, who have sent pension and other benefit costs through the roof.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has emerged as the national leader of the struggle against collective bargaining, pushed his plan through the state Senate late Wednesday night, using a legislative maneuver to pass the measure without the 14 Democratic lawmakers who fled the state in a failed attempt to prevent the vote. It was expected to easily pass the state assembly, which is controlled by the Republicans.

Labor unions, with the support of the White House, have waged a three-week battle to block the legislation in a fight that has spread across the country, where many states are facing unprecedented budget deficits and the prospect of major spending cuts, layoffs and similar efforts to curb union-bargaining powers.

Walker's preliminary victory has not only given conservatives bragging rights about slowly winning the war against the big spenders and bigger government, but it will embolden governors in other states -- Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey and even New York -- to forcefully press ahead with their own sweeping spending reforms.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, Republican leaders are facing a Democrat-controlled Senate that is resisting any efforts to seriously cut this year's spending. The Senate Democrats rejected the House's budget plan, but were unable to muster the 60 votes needed to take up their own minuscule plan to nick just $10 billion in spending in the remaining six months of the fiscal year.

Notably, in key votes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is losing a big chunk of his own members, who said the $10 billion spending cut was a joke. In Wednesday's cloture vote on Reid's budget bill, 11 Democrats joined all 47 Republicans in opposing it.

This discomfort with fiscal turpitude takes place in an atmosphere of wider insecurity. A few weeks ago, President Obama was bragging about the jobs numbers, the stock market and the economy, which he said was back on track.

But now many economists are saying that it will be years before the high unemployment rate returns to normal. Oil prices have shot up to more than $100 a barrel, forcing gasoline prices to nearly $4 a gallon, which could sandbag the recovery and force new layoffs. The stock market is tanking on fears of sky-high energy costs, uncontrolled spending and unprecedented federal debt, shrinking retirement accounts. Forecasters say we could very well be facing another year in which one million homes are foreclosed.

Americans are justifiably worried about all this, but especially the specter of runaway government spending, which burdens taxpayers and weakens our economy. A new analysis of Obama's budget plan by Brian Riedl at the Heritage Foundation says it will "raise taxes by $1.6 trillion over the next decade and borrow 43 cents for each dollar spent in 2011."

This is why the Republicans' budget-cutting movement is gaining strength and winning the early rounds. Are all those cooking shows and old movies, not to mention the left-wing programming on NPR and public television, really worth adding to a $1.6 trillion deficit?

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