The fallout from the Jack Abramoff scandal, and the resultant competition for new Republican leadership in the House, has produced a growing refrain calling for an end to federal budget “earmarks.” But pork proliferation is only part of the story behind the corruption problems created by oversized government.
As Patrick Chisholm wrote this week in the Christian Science Monitor, the complicity of alleged conservatives (i.e. Republicans) in the practice of expanding government represents a “triumph of the redistributionist left.”
“‘Republican’ is no longer synonymous with spending restraint, free markets, and other ideals of the political right,” Chisholm wrote. “While the left did not get its way on tax cuts, this may only be a temporary defeat: Freewheeling spending has made future tax cuts politically a lot harder.”
That may be changing. Outrage was kindled last year when Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere” was pledged $223 million in the federal transportation bill. Ever since public scrutiny, coupled with the Abramoff revelations, has increasingly shamed lawmakers into repentance over bringing outrageous pork barrel projects to their districts.
Further, this week Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund and syndicated journalist Robert Novak examined how big government has encouraged the growth of earmarks, which in turn have stimulated the corruption. Novak reported Arizona Sen. John McCain’s efforts to find common ground between the political parties in order to wipe out pork.
“A reform of a system that has grown ever more rotten must have two salient characteristics, in McCain’s view,” Novak wrote. “It must be bipartisan, and it must eviscerate, if not eliminate, earmarks.”
And Fund focused on the trend by state and local governments to hire lobbyists in order to obtain federal funds for those special projects.
“The number of companies hired to pursue earmarks has doubled since 2000, many of them retained by universities or cities to pursue federal dollars,” Fund reported. “Now the feeding frenzy has escalated to the point that some lobbyists…are approaching local officials and suggesting they have the juice to get them an earmark, providing the lobbyist gets paid a hefty fee.”
However, a clamor against special appropriations — pushed in Congress by House Majority Leader candidates John Shadegg of Arizona and John Boehner of Ohio — is growing, and certainly promising. But while the focus is on pork, attention should also be paid to two other insidious products of meddlesome government: economic development incentives and eminent domain.
AS MUCH AS TAXPAYERS gag on pork, corporate welfare (we call it “corporate socialism” here at the John Locke Foundation) ought to make them equally sick. Consider this week’s announcement by Ford Motor Company that they plan to shutter up to 14 assembly plants, and lay off as many as 30,000 employees. Despite the domestic automaker’s ongoing woes and fight for survival, governors from affected states traveled in recent weeks to Dearborn, Michigan, to beg Ford to spare their states from plant closings. Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt offered a package of incentives (he wouldn’t specify how much publicly) earlier this month to try to convince Ford not to close its Hazelwood, Missouri plant. This after both state and local officials four years ago granted the company $17 million in tax breaks to keep the same factory open. Is there any amount of taxpayer money that is too much to pour down a rathole?
And how about this, from the (some say) “conservative” Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota:
explained to WCCO-TV
“Or, if you’d like to build a better, brighter future that’s growth-oriented, in alternative fuels and renewable energy, we’d be willing to invest significantly in that too.”
“Invest” is the favorite buzzword of politicians — both Democrat and Republican — who like to use other people’s money to take chances in risky businesses. The results are often as scandalous as anything Abramoff has perpetrated.
As is the Supreme Court-endorsed practice of employing eminent domain to give private property to developers, also in the name of economic development. You should already be familiar with the Kelo v. New London decision in Connecticut, which took away homeowners’ land and gave it to a developer to build more tax revenue-generating commercial property. Similar situations exist in localities all over the country, like Riviera Beach, Florida, where officials want to displace a largely minority (“blighted”) community on the waterfront in favor of a marina and more expensive houses.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?