February 03, 2006

Drunken GOP Sailors

In 2003, Republican Sen. John McCain criticized fellow lawmakers for "spending money like a drunken sailor." Among other things, McCain lamented a $31 billion national energy bill would largely fund industry tax breaks. "The numbers are astonishing....Congress is now spending money like a drunken sailor. And I've never known a sailor drunk or sober with the imagination that this Congress has." That was 2003, this is 2006.

Here's a headline from the Wall Street Journal, January 2004:

Drunken GOP Sailors Even Bill Clinton and a Democratic Congress didn't spend like this.

Here is conservative radio personality Tammy Bruce in September 2005:

Bush Is Spending Like a Drunken Sailor! While I love the president, and have no qualms putting my safety in his hands when it comes to dealing with the War on Radical Islam, I certainly would never give him my wallet when it comes to domestic issues.

For those of you who are wondering how conservatives (McCain and the Wall Street Journal are conservative, I believe) are reacting to the Bush regime's current 2006 spending spree and the Congress' pork barrel largesse, one needs to look no further than the Heritage Foundation to see how disconcerted some conservatives are by the behavior of these drunken sailors.

In a section there website, the Heritage Foundation has a page entitled Appropriations Watch which is prefaced this way:

"These pages demonstrate that during budget season lawmakers and lobbyists operate with a mindset that no federal government spending is bad government spending.
It all adds up. Pork-barrel spending continues to grow when defense needs are a priority, and lawmakers ignore the best way to create short-term and long-term stimulus for the economy: accelerating President Bush's tax cuts, and returning more money to the taxpayers."

So no less a conservative think-tank than the Heritage Foundation has pretty much had it with a Congress (controlled by Republicans) which is lobbied to excess by corporate interests (mostly Republican) which strong-arm the pork and the earmarks, and a Republican administration that knee-jerk approves it all.

Of course, it's not clear when they say so generically:

"...the best way to create short-term and long-term stimulus for the economy: accelerating President Bush's tax cuts, and returning more money to the taxpayers."

Are they suggesting that the tax cuts for the wealthy should be expanded to include more substantially the not-so-wealthy? Or are they merely suggesting that the current tax cuts for the wealthy should be made permanent?

It's all so mysterious, because on other pages of their website, the Heritage Foundation decries the out-of-control budget, the negative influences of lobbyists and special interests, and the disastrous effects of such a huge budget deficit.

On one page, Brian M. Riedl, Grover M. Hermann Fellow in Federal Budgetary Affairs in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation (whew!), proposes Six Budget Reforms to Restrain Lobbyists and Special Interests. (It is reassuring that people at the Heritage Foundation are actually worrying about these kinds of things.)

Riedl proposes the following (for more detail, read the actual piece cited above): 1. Ban Pork Projects; 2. If Pork Remains, Add Sunshine; 3. Make all Federal Grants Public; 4. Term-Limit Appropriators; 5. Rewrite the Outdated 1974 Congressional Budget Act; 6. Enact a Federal TaxpayersÂ’ Bill of Rights.

Notice how from number one to number two, he allows for the possibility that banning pork may be an impossible task, so in number two he pleads for openness, for disclosure. He seems to be saying -- hey, if you are going to keep stealing taxpayer money for your little projects, at least let's make it clear who is doing the stealing and for what. Like that is actually going to happen.

It's worth taking a look at the pork barrel spending increases in Federal Spending Bills since 1995:

  • 2005 - 13,997
  • 2004 - 10,656
  • 2003 - 9,362
  • 2002 - 8,341
  • 2001 - 6,333
  • 2000 - 4,326
  • 1999 - 2,838
  • 1998 - 2100
  • 1997 - 1,596
  • 1996 - 958
  • 1995 - 1439

The drunken sailors are clearly winning.

Riedl also authors a piece entitled "New CBO Baseline Substantially Understates Grim Budget Picture" (January 27, 2006) which begins this way:

"The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects a balanced budget by 2012. A number of CBOÂ’s assumptions underlying this projection are, to say the least, problematic. For example, CBOÂ’s projections assume that all of the PresidentÂ’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, as well as all other temporary tax cuts, are allowed to expire and that the Alternative Minimum Tax is not fixed before it digs further into middle-class incomes. CBO is also required by law to assume that there will be no more appropriations for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and for Gulf Coast reconstruction; that the pending reconciliation budget will have no effects; and that discretionary spending will not grow at all, in inflation-adjusted terms. With all these caveats in place, CBOÂ’s budget baseline is extremely unrealistic."

"Extremely unrealistic" and "grim budget picture" are not words the Heritage Foundation uses lightly in criticizing a Republican budget. Riedl sums up his concerns: 1. Budget deficits are far larger than CBO projects; 2) Tax revenues are not the problem; 3) Runaway spending is the problem; 4) Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are out of control; 5) Halving the deficit by 2009 will be difficult, but it is the long-term deficit that matters more; and 6) Net interest spending is growing.

The DailyKos, who has inspired my piece, concludes about all this:

While the deficits are a clear result of Bush's tax cuts, Heritage would rather see a different solution -- drastic spending cuts. But given the size of these budget deficits, cuts from the discretionary budget won't do the trick.
In 2004, we had $895 billion in discretionary spending, including $454 billion in defense spending. That means that we had $441 billion in non-defense discretionary spending.
Our budget deficit in 2004 was $412 billion. So without raising revenues, our nation would literally have to eliminate the entire defense department (which ain't gonna happen) or its entire non-defense discretionary spending to simply balance the budget. That's not including the $4.3 TRILLION in debt we current hold and should really be trying to pay off.
Heritage knows this because its solution is much harsher -- cut social security, Medicare, and Medicaid entitlements.
We are seeing Grover Norquist's "drown the government" strategy in action.
But remember, we weren't in this mess before Bush irresponsibly cut taxes and engaged uunnecessaryssary foreign entanglements.


Hume's Ghost said...

Bush just requested his new military budget which raises spending by 5%: a whopping 439.3 billion. HOw an 8% increase in spending on high tech weapons is going to help us defeat people hiding in caves who blow themselves up on occasion is beyond me.

Cuts in entitlement spending (Medicare, welfare, and student loans) of 40 billion were just made, while a 20 billion dollar asbestos bailout has been proposed for companies that gave people cancer.

Now I'm getting an idea of how Paul O'Neal must have felt when Dick Cheney told him Reagan proved deficits don't matter.

If you can get a hold of it, check out the introduction of Gary Wills (the guy who reviewed Carter's Our Endangered Values)Reagan's America where he talks about how neoconservative Irving Kristol falls in love with the deficit because it can be used as a political tool.

Hume's Ghost said...

I just got done with the Washington Post. The 40 billion dollar "deficit reduction" from entitlement cuts will be offset by 70 billion dollars in proposed tax cuts that the Senate is considering.

nightquill said...

I know it's a bit off topic, but can we examine the doublespeak in the phrase "war on radical Islam", (one presumably not endorsed by anyone in the administration (I hope))? This would be the war whose primary accomplishment has so far been to facilitate the birth of a radical Islamic goverment in Iraq, potentially the most wealthy and influential in the world? Waged by a government in thrall to the influence of radical Christianity?
Yeesh. Let's hope this phrase stays out on the fringes of talk radio.