It’s a favorite trick of the left, now performed nightly on CNN by the insufferable Eliot Spitzer. Liberals sneeringly challenge conservatives to explain exactly where they would cut government to balance the budget and then scoff at the supposed “small potatoes” when individual programs are named for elimination. As Mr. Spitzer proves, unprincipled, undisciplined people don’t understand what’s wrong with an undisciplined government leviathan.
The truth is, of course, that small numbers add up, even if they can’t add up fast enough for a 30-second sound bite. No single magic bullet can balance the budget; thousands upon thousands of surgical cuts are needed.
In that light, Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, provides a great service by releasing a regular “Pork Report” showing, through dozens of examples, how the federal government wastes taxpayers’ hard-earned money - sometimes for private reasons. For instance, The Florida Times-Union reported Oct. 17 that Rep. Corrine Brown, Florida Democrat, has requested more than $1.1 million in earmarks for a nondescript Jacksonville strip mall called Pearl Plaza. It just so happens that Ms. Brown’s daughter, Shantrel, is a paid lobbyist for a group working “for the renovation of Pearl Street Plaza.” According to the Times-Union, this is the third time Ms. Brown has gone “to bat for one of her daughter’s clients.”
Likewise, but far more expensively, Rep. Russ Carnahan, Missouri Democrat, helped secure a $107 million grant from the Energy Department for a wind farm founded by his brother, Tom. The Daily Caller reported Sept. 30 that the project had gone nowhere on its own since 2005, but federal funding suddenly jump-started it.
Sometimes the pork does more for a congressman’s ego than for his family’s finances. Also on Sept. 30, Mr. Coburn released a special report called “Schoolhouse Pork” that identified 5,563 earmarks for questionable education projects in the past decade, at a cost of $2.3 billion. Among them were $181 million in projects officially named after their congressional sponsors: “$1.9 million in 2008 for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service; two earmarks over two years worth more than $19 million for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate; $2.4 million for the Lott Leadership Institute, named after former Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott; and two earmarks worth $10 million for the Strom Thurmond Fitness and Wellness Center.”
The problem is that the federal government spends money on such things through every agency and department, every day of the year. The corrupt culture of spending is bankrupting America. The only way to change that culture is to get rid of the political hacks who foster it - especially those who make official acts a family affair.