Being a conservative in the limited government tradition is getting a bit frustrating these days. To watch the Congress as of late is to engage in self-flagellation.
Ask yourself: Would you rather try to pass a measly $54 billion in spending cuts that represent 0.0001% of the federal budget over the next few years or pull the teeth from an alligator? Having participated in the blogosphere's PorkBusters project, I suspect that large, predatory-animal dentistry might be a more productive career path. PorkBusters asked participants to contact their Representatives and Senators to ask them how they planned to offset aid for Hurricane Katrina victims. While I was able to get a response from Senator George Allen's office, my five or six calls each to Senator John Warner's and Rep. Tom Davis's offices were never returned.
Recent events have done nothing to alleviate the pessimism I felt due to my Congress members' non-responsiveness. Just last week moderate "Republicans" in the House held up the federal budget that contained the measly $54 billion in spending cuts until drilling in ANWR was dropped. After ANWR was dropped, they held up the spending cuts anyway. Adding insult to injury, these were Beltway-style cuts -- that is, this wasn't a matter of receiving less money than in previous years but, rather, a reduction in the rate of growth.
It gets worse. A source of mine tells me the conference report for Labor and Health and Human Services is now held up because the House and Senate conferees took almost all of the earmarks (a.k.a. "pork") out and did not massively increase spending for next year.
NOT ONLY IS much of Congress doing its best to avoid dealing with overspending, certain parts are compounding the problem in silly ways. Below are three such examples:
On Wednesday the House passed HR 856, the "Federal Youth Coordination Act." Introduced by Republican Tom Osborne, it will spend about $2 million from fiscal years 2007-2008 to establish a "Federal Youth Development Council" whose duties will include a report on the overlap and duplication among youth programs in different federal agencies. This might not be the worst use of taxpayer money, except that the Government Accountability Office looked at this same problem ten years ago, finding that eight different agencies administered forty-six youth development programs for a cost of over $5 billion annually. Thus, this new bill will probably continue the time-honored tradition of lots of government studies but little action.
Next up is HR 1492, introduced by Bill Thomas. Passed yesterday in the House, it would spend $38 million for "the preservation of the historic confinement sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II." Do we really need to spend money on this while the budget is bleeding red ink? And even if it were in the black, this should be the purview on private philanthropy. Yet with groups like the Trust for Historic Preservation now wasting resources advocating on behalf of "smart growth," it's probably little wonder that there is pressure for government to handle this function.
Finally, there is HR 1065, which would usurp state power by creating a Federal Boxing Commission. The CBO estimates this would cost about $5 million annually. Now that Mike Tyson hasn't bitten an ear recently, it's hard to see any justification for this at all. Luckily, neither did the House, which voted it down yesterday. However, this bill was the brainchild of Senator John McCain, who is often vocal about deficits. Perhaps McCain should have asked for it to be pulled to show support for spending cuts.
Before you get too discouraged, let me leave you with a bit of a smile. Cynthia McKinney recently introduced the "Tupac Amaru Shakur Records Collection Act of 2005" because all "Government records related to the life and death of Tupac Amaru Shakur should be preserved for historical and governmental purposes." One wonders whether she will introduce a future piece of legislation for Biggy Smalls.
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