Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Grand Old Pork

CNSNews goes in depth today on an issue that may genuinely hurt the GOP's chances of staying in power -- their spending habits.

(CNSNews.com) - Eleven years after Americans routed Democrats at the ballot box over undisciplined spending habits, breaking the party's monopoly on power in Washington, voters may be leaning toward a similar punishment of the Republican Party, with the issue again revolving around the dominant party's spending of taxpayer dollars.

Even some of the GOP's most loyal activist groups are angry and frustrated, complaining about a "spending spree" or a Congress that has gone "whole hog while letting down every hard-working American taxpayer."

A Cybercast News Service analysis of federal spending reveals that non-defense discretionary spending -- which does not include such mandatory items as Social Security and Medicare -- climbed 79 percent between 1994 and 2005. The Clinton administration's $259 billion spent on such items in the fiscal year 1994 budget pales in comparison with the $464 billion in similar expenses by the Bush administration in the fiscal year 2005 budget.

The rate of inflation, meanwhile, as measured by the consumer price index, rose only 33 percent over the same time frame.

Republicans have controlled the U.S. House for all of those 11 years and the Senate for the entire time except for a 17-month stretch in 2001 and 2002. The White House was occupied by Democratic President Bill Clinton for the first six years of the Republican congressional majority, but Republican President George W. Bush has given the GOP a monopoly on power for most of the last five years.

According to a decades-old popular perception, Republicans favor spending on the military or "guns," while Democrats prefer spending on civilian programs or "butter." But Pete Sepp, vice president of communications for the National Taxpayers Union, told Cybercast News Service that the Republican spending philosophy in Congress "can be summed up in two words: guns and butter, with butter getting an even bigger share."

The Republicans are engaged in a "spending spree," according to Sepp, having adopted the practices of the Democratic Congress they ousted in 1994.

The 1994 Republican landslide was fueled by then-U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America," the 10-point GOP agenda that included a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. Even though the amendment never passed, the proposal solidified the idea that Republicans were more fiscally prudent.

However, Sepp says Republican leaders no longer feel the same way. "Many Appropriations Committee posts went to senior GOP lawmakers who had spent years playing the compromise game with their Democratic colleagues -- which only perpetuated the 'everyone gets a slice of the pie' mentality."

The change in GOP spending, Sepp added, "had to do with the trappings of incumbency.

"Some Republicans in Congress felt like they had been so deeply frozen out of power that they would do anything to keep it, even though the popular base of support that gave them control of Congress wanted to see real changes in Washington's spending habits," Sepp said.

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), another conservative group that has frequently sided with Republicans, notes on its website that "Congress continues to live in its own unreal world, believing there are no consequences to a steady diet of pork fat.

"Our elected officials have let themselves go whole hog while letting down every hard-working American taxpayer," according to the CAGW web statement.

Like many of us on the right, I consider myself a conservative first and Republican second. If Republicans in congress aren't behaving like conservatives then I agree that it's time for them to go. But shifting the balance of power back to the traditional "tax-n-spend" Democratic party in the hopes that they will grow government at a slower pace is not the answer. Conservative voters simply need to knock out the corrupt incumbents and replace them with some new blood. There are plenty of strong candidates waiting in the wings who would be more than happy to show us how it's done -- Herman Cain of Georgia comes to mind.

We have the power... we just need to exercise it...

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