February 16, 2008

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Here’s more on the Bonner appointment:

In 1995, when Republicans took control of Congress, they were full of promises of fiscal responsibility. Dick Armey, who became House majority leader that year, says they practiced spending restraint “with very serious rigor”–and discretionary spending decreased from $609.2 billion in 1995 to $581 billion in 1998 in constant dollars. But House Appropriations chairman Bob Livingston soon refused to work with the fiscal-restraint proponent Armey, who was in charge of floor scheduling. At that point, in Armey’s telling, “discipline broke down,” and discretionary spending began to rise. It hasn’t stopped since. In 2006, total discretionary spending, adjusted for inflation, reached $823.5 billion.

The House wasn’t the only culprit in the demise of Republican spending restraint. Other players included the Republican Senate (which some policy analysts say is even more extravagant than the House), a Democratic president, and a Republican president with spending initiatives of their own. Add to that the new homeland-security initiatives after 9/11, two wars, Hurricane Katrina, and the allure of earmarks, and all attempts at spending restraint went out the door. In 2006, the party paid dearly at the polls. . . .

Chris Edwards, director of tax policy at the Cato Institute, says that until the system is reformed, earmarking will go on unrestrained, “regardless of who is in power.” Democrats are continuing the Republicans’ policy of directing earmarks to vulnerable members. Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, says that by not appointing Flake to the committee, Republicans missed an opportunity to make a “strong statement” about earmark reform. Jo Bonner supported the moratorium–but his own earmarks totaled nearly $28 million this year.

Reform-minded policy analysts agree that Republicans should enact a unilateral earmark moratorium and appoint Flake-types to the Appropriations committee in 2009, when six Republican members will retire. For now, though, Republicans will continue to pork it up at least until Election Day.

Sometimes I think they’d rather be a porky minority than a porkless majority. And here’s more from Bonner’s home state:

For the current fiscal year, Flake did not receive any money for such “earmarked” endeavors, according to a newly released rundown from Taxpayers for Common Sense. Working with Alabama’s two senators, Bonner obtained almost $17.3 million for 14 projects, the tally shows.

Bonner was on his way back to Mobile late Thursday afternoon and not available for comment, spokeswoman Nancy Wall said.

But in his news release, he underscored his support for efforts to overhaul the current earmarking process, which critics say is riddled with waste and favoritism.

He’s talking the talk. Will he walk the walk? And James Joyner has some further thoughts:

It’s very interesting that the blogs have become a sufficiently important factor in the process to at least have the leadership wary. Bloggers are routinely solicited by the public relations outreach efforts of the Congress and the parties and inclusion on conference calls on the like has become routine in recent years.

But internal politics are likely always going to trump external pressures from commentators.

Yep. But at least we can make the choices clear. Joyner also comments, on Jeff Flake: “I’d note some small irony in the conservative blogosphere championing a cantankerous fiscal conservative from Arizona perceived by his colleagues as insufficient loyal to the team.” Heh.

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