- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 28, 2004

There is no discipline, no sense of responsibility, apparently not even a love of country or sense of patriotic duty among most members of Congress, for if there were you would never get the 3,000-page, omnibus-bill abomination that is economically threatening and virtually an act of mass thievery.

Congress’ first job is to manage federal spending, but it dodges the appropriations bills it is supposed to act on as if they carried dread diseases, misses its deadlines, and as the end of the year approaches, inserts long lists of pork into mammoth legislation that no one much gets a chance to read or understand.

Then, members scoot home to bathe in applause from the relatively few who benefit from their near-criminality, neglecting to mention to all the others how their tax money was misspent.

As reporters start thumbing through the legislation, stories start appearing about all the craziness — the snake-control project in Guam, the $1 million for the Norwegian American Foundation — and some chuckle while others shake their heads. Good grief, America, quit laughing, and do more than look disgusted: The $388 billion for nine of 13 areas of appropriation comes on top of a debt that must absolutely be reduced if we are to have any chance of coping with coming emergencies in Social Security and Medicare.

Republicans used to have a verbal kick-fest when Democrats controlled Congress and acted this way, but now the Republicans are in control, and are they better? They are worse. And where, by the way, is President Bush hiding? The president talks a good game on controlling spending, but avoids the veto as if it, too, carried a dread disease. Take charge, Mr. President. Be strong. Be tough. There is something big at stake here, such as whether this country is going to have a decent future or not.

Here is one bit of cheering news. House members are coming back to Washington to vote on one sentence in the bill that no one in that body noticed, a provision enabling House and Senate staffers to rummage through individual tax returns, a privacy-invading horror. The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, deserves credit for demanding that the sentence be removed. The best thing that could happen to a bunch of these members is that they themselves would be removed by voters, but that hardly ever happens to incumbents these days. It is at least gratifying to know that they will pay for their disgraceful behavior with some inconvenience this holiday season.

Jay Ambrose is director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard Newspapers.

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