- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

This has been a rotten week for big spending, liberals and President Obama and a great week for conservatives in the war to reduce the size and cost of government.

Senate Democrats were having a hard time rounding up support for a muscular alternative to the House Republicans’ $61 billion, midyear budget-cutting plan. The Democrats’ alternative - essentially keeping spending where it is and running up a $1.6 trillion deficit - has become the laughingstock of the nation.

National Public Radio - the liberals’ holy grail of big-government propaganda - has been hit by a series of embarrassing scandals that have strengthened the case for ending taxpayer-funding of public broadcasting entirely.

NPR’s chief executive resigned under pressure after its chief fundraiser attacked Republicans as “anti-intellectual,” called Tea Party activists “racists” and suggested that Jews control the nation’s newspapers. He gave conservative budget-cutters even more ammunition to use in their crusade to end public broadcasting when he acknowledged that NPR could do just fine without government subsidies.

And White House advisers are now saying that Mr. Obama - who seems unable to make a decision on how to deal with the crisis in Libya - is willing to let other world leaders come up with a solution to the conflict.

That decision not only “opens him to criticism that he is a weak leader,” The Washington Post said Thursday in a front-page article, but it adds to growing criticism from conservatives and Democrats alike that he prefers to sit on the sidelines in major battles - above the fray - rather than get down in the arena and fight for his policies.

Conservatives have won a major victory in Wisconsin in what has become a nationwide battle to slash state government spending by significantly curtailing collective-bargaining for public employees that has sent pension and other benefit costs through the roof.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican who has emerged as the national leader of this movement, pushed his plan through the state Senate late Wednesday night, using a legislative maneuver to pass the measure without the 14 Democratic lawmakers who fled the state in a failed attempt to prevent the vote. It is expected to pass the Republican-controlled state Assembly easily.

Labor unions, with the support of the White House, have waged a three-week battle in a widening war to block major spending cuts, layoffs and curbs to union bargaining powers in states that are facing unprecedented budget shortfalls.

Mr. Walker’s preliminary victory not only has given conservatives bragging rights that they are slowly winning the war against big spenders and bigger government, but it will embolden governors in other states - Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey and even New York - to press ahead forcefully with their own sweeping spending reforms.

Meantime, back in Washington, Republican leaders are facing a Democrat-controlled Senate that is resisting any efforts to cut seriously this year’s spending. Senate Democrats rejected the House’s plan but were unable to muster the 60 votes needed to take up their own minuscule plan to nick just $10 billion in spending in the remaining six months of this fiscal year.

Notably, in key votes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, is losing a big chunk of his own members who said the $10 billion spending cut was a joke. In Wednesday’s cloture vote on Mr. Reid’s budget bill, 11 Democrats joined all 47 Republicans in opposing it.

Many of the delinquent Democrats who voted no are facing tough races next year, and Mr. Reid’s days as majority leader are numbered.

Why? Because the math favors the Republicans: 23 Democrat-held seats will be at stake in 2012 versus just 10 safe Republican seats. Five Democrats are retiring, and several of the new open seats have improved the GOP’s chances of taking control of the Senate. They need a gain of just three.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Obama was bragging about the jobs numbers, the stock market and the economy, which he said was back on track.

But now many economists are saying that it will be years before the high unemployment rate returns to normal. Oil prices have shot above $100 a barrel, forcing gasoline prices to near $4 a gallon. That could sandbag the recovery and force new layoffs. The stock market is tanking on fears of sky-high energy costs, uncontrolled spending and unprecedented federal debt that are shrinking retirement accounts. Forecasters say we very well could be facing another million home foreclosures this year.

Americans are justifiably worried about all this, especially the specter of runaway government spending that burdens taxpayers and weakens our economy. A new analysis of Mr. Obama’s budget plan by Brian Riedl at the Heritage Foundation says it will “raise taxes by $1.6 trillion over the next decade and borrow 43 cents for each dollar spent in 2011.”

This is why the Republicans’ budget-cutting movement if gaining strength and winning the early rounds. Are all those cooking shows, old movies and left-wing programming on NPR and public television really worth adding to a $1.6 trillion deficit?

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.

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