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Wednesday, July 24th, 2024

One For The Money, Two To Say No

Two dedicated fiscal conservatives have set a trap for the outgoing Republican and incoming Democrat leadership of Congress. By blocking all spending legislation loaded with pork projects, Republican Senators Tom Coburn (Oklahoma) and Jim DeMint (South Carolina) are pressuring the Senate to pass a continuing resolution when it returns before the Christmas break.

This maneuver means that all discretionary spending besides Defense and Homeland Security will have to be funded at last year’s levels. This resolution is needed to keep the government running until mid-January when the new Congress takes over.

If the continuing resolution passes, the Democrats will have to take up new spending bills and pass a budget in early 2007. Can they resist the temptation to load in their own pork projects? Will they risk their new legislative agenda to push for more spending?

Or will they pass their own full-year continuing resolution? If they do so, taxpayers will save $17 billion in 2007. All because Coburn and DeMint are sticking to their guns to fight the estimated 10,000 earmarks and budget-busting pork projects shoved into the proposed spending bills. If these bills don’t pass, all of the earmarks will expire.

With government spending having increased almost 50% since 2001 (yes, 50% in six years under a Republican President and Congress), Coburn and DeMint are determined to put the brakes on spending increases. These fiscal crusaders are prepared to fight hard, with Coburn ready to force votes on dozens of amendments that would eliminate any attempts to fund pork projects.

Predictably, the bureaucrats are howling about the prospective cut – which amounts to a paltry six-tenths of one percent of the current $2.57 trillion budget.

Here’s a little exercise for you. Suppose I told you that you had to make a 5% cut in your personal budget. Could you do it? How much would it hurt? Would you miss anything truly essential and vital to your life?

Of course not. Each of us no doubt spends 5% on things we don’t need in the course of a year. Now imagine cutting 5% from every federal agency across the board. On a $2.57 trillion budget, that would create savings of $128.5 billion. Now we’re talking real money!

The only problem is there aren’t enough politicians with the courage and gumption of Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint. It’s up to us to get more folks like them in charge of the federal purse strings.

For now, far too many Congressmen and Senators openly run for re-election on their abilities to get federal spending projects for their districts. Such worthwhile endeavors like $200,000 for recreational improvements in North Pole, Alaska, or $100,000 to renovate a Coca-Cola building in Macon, Georgia. It’s easy to be generous with someone else’s money.

While these politicians defend their work as bringing vital funds to Main Street, the reality is that the greater dependency that Main Street has on the federal government for funding needed local projects, the less control we Americans will have over what happens in our communities.

The ruling class doesn’t stop at mere funding projects. They also display incredible skill in creating tremendous benefit programs for themselves that they then won’t allow for the public at large: private savings/investment accounts in lieu of Social Security; lavish pensions; and a wide range of choice in health benefits.

Congress has turned a blind eye to Social Security reform proposed by President Bush. Yet their own retirement savings are invested in the Thrift Savings plan for federal employees, a stock and bond fund much like the idea advocated by the President for a small portion of individual Social Security contributions.

A 10-year average return on the federal plan falls between 6% and 11%, compared to the 2% that The Forgotten Street can expect through Social Security.

Remember the politicians who campaigned to come to Washington on the promise of term limits? How many of them actually kept their promise? Why leave when you have the world’s biggest cookie jar at your disposal?

Coburn and DeMint represent a small step in the right direction. We need to give them all the encouragement we can, as well as push more of their colleagues to join in the fight for fiscal sanity.