The GOP Revolution of 1994 now seems as quaint and distant a historical event as the American Revolution of 1776. Congressional Republicans pledged "to bring to the House a new majority that will transform the way Congress works." The Contract With America promised "the end of government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public's money."
Six years later, the modern-day revolutionaries' written pledges to "restore accountability to Congress, end its cycle of scandal and disgrace, and make us all proud again of the way free people govern themselves" have faded into an illegible blur.
The defiant rhetoric lingers. This weekend, GOP Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott vowed that the party would not cave in to President Clinton's spending demands. But the bold talk is a feeble smokescreen, behind which Republicans have been frantically waving the white flag of surrender to Big Government. The Republicans didn't propose to spend as much as the Democrats; they want to spend billions and billions more.
Once upon a time there was no government target too large to cut -- the Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Arts, farm subsidies. You name it, every liberal sacred cow was vulnerable. Now there is no program too trivial to fund. Among the infinite pork-barrel projects identified by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that have been included in appropriations bills approved by the Republican-led Congress this year:
-- $176,000 for the Reindeer Herders Association;
-- $300,000 for manure management systems in Florence, S.C.;
-- $500,000 for the restoration of a carousel in Cleveland, Ohio;
-- $1 million for the Animal Waste Management Consortium in Missouri;
-- $1.25 million for Aleutian Pribilof church repairs;
-- $1.5 million to refurbish the Vulcan Statue in Alabama;
-- $4 million for the International Fertilizer Development Center; and
-- $5 million for an insect rearing facility in Stoneville, Miss.
GOP leaders shoveled an unprecedented $4.7 billion increase to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, whose appropriations bill included such vitally important needs as $250,000 for the Westside Rowing Club of Buffalo, N.Y.; $250,000 for the Trinity Repertory Pell-Chafee Theatre in Providence, R.I.; and a $2.5 million pilot training simulator for the University of
The GOP warriors are now quibbling over the
$114 billion bill funding the departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services, which includes a record $43 billion in federal education dollars. This from the party that just a half-dozen years ago promised to eliminate the Department of Education altogether.
Yes, six long years ago, the GOP Contract With America made fiscal responsibility and reigning in an "out-of-control Congress" its top priority. Stringent spending caps were enacted with great fanfare in 1997. Under the law, discretionary spending (government expenditures on programs other than Social Security, Medicare, and interest on the national debt) was limited to $541 billion this year. But the Republican revolutionaries smashed through their own ceiling and are poised to oversee increased discretionary spending totaling more than $650 billion next year.
Business Week points out that the congressional budget resolution for fiscal 2000 entails a nearly 8 percent growth rate in spending in a single year. In fact, over the past three years, the Republican-controlled Congress has approved discretionary spending that topped President Clinton's requests by more than $30 billion. Researchers at the libertarian Cato Institute found that the combined budgets of the 95 major programs that the Contract With America promised to eliminate have increased by 13 percent.
So much for honoring contracts. So much for the revolution. The GOP soldiers for limited government are heading for the hills, and taking our tax dollars with them.