All right, so maybe that's not the most glamorous name for him, but that's what he is. Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma spoke at the Conservative Women's Network lunch at The Heritage Foundation today. Heritage and the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute hold the event once a month, and there is one male speaker a year asked to face the sea of pastel power suits and pearls. Coburn served honorably.
Coburn (who has the Porkbusters logo on his site) spent a lot of his speech on the importance of ending the addiction to pork. Pork, he said, is just indicator of the fact that politicians are vastly more interested in their own re-election than the good of the American people. If we can't break politicians of the pork habit, there is no chance that we'll force them to make other hard fiscal decisions.
"Earmarks comprise 3% of the federal budget, but they influence every other part of the budget process."
"Unless we overcome the addiction to porkâ€¦it's unlikely that weâ€™ll ever confront the other fiscal challenges that face our country."
"It's the lever and the crowbar thatâ€™s used to move both large packages and spending bills that would not otherwise move."
"I believe it is a corrupt process because it means Congress does not have to do the hard job of deciding what is best for the country."
Coburn noted that this Congress has racked up $27 billion dollars in spending on 14,000 earmarks-- that's more than 25 earmarks per Member of Congress. Coburn's plan?
"I want to eliminate earmarks in the next two years, or make them so painful that people don't want to put them in...If you have an earmark, then come to floor of Senate and tell me why you should do this when people are sitting in the cold and the rain in New Orleans today."
And what happens if we don't rein in pork spending and, subsequently, all other spending?
"We're gonna either elect new people who will make the hard choices or weâ€™re gonna go broke. We're gonna go broke."
I asked Coburn about his thoughts on primary challenges to incumbents as a tool for telling politicians that Americans want them to act in America's best interest instead of their own. I specifically asked him about Laffey vs. Chafee in R.I., since I had been on the subject that morning. I was hoping Coburn's candor would win out, but he didn't specifically address Laffey vs. Chafee much:
"I think we need more political parties. I think we need more grassroots involvement. I believe people oughtta be what they say they are."
"Lincoln Chafee is a nice man, but he's not a conservative."
UPDATE: Funky punctuation fixed now. Sorry 'bout that.