As usual, the nonpareil reporter David Rogers of the Wall Street Journal has all the inside scoop today on congressional action. And, once a conservative analyzes the unbiased, factual reporting of Rogers, that conservative again will start to feel his blood boil — on social issues and especially on spending.
Let’s start with spending. Once again, Congress is using ruses to disguise how much money it is spending, and thus how much debt to load onto our grandchildren’s grandchildren. Apparently these folks have never heard of honest budgeting. It’s bad enough that they spend like thoroughly drunken billionaires; it’s even worse that they don’t have the guts to do so on the up-and-up, but instead try to hide their handiwork. To quote David Rogers: “The Senate Appropriations COmmittee gave final approval to a $453.5 billion Pentagon budget, cutting $9.1 billion from the administration’s request…. An estimated $3.8 billion in savings would come from operations accounts, suggesting that the military will have to rely on Iraq-war emergency funds to help weather the reductions.“
Okay, stop right there. Let’s analyze that. What this means is that in a time of war, Congress is actually CUTTING defense spending in some areas. (“By shifting funds from defense,” reports Rogers, “the committee is better able to blunt proposed cuts from domestic programs.”) Targeted in particular are funds for a highly important new, high-speed Littoral Combat Ship. In total, $2 billion will be cut from aircraft and ship production. That’s not responsible, especially when so much totally non-military pork is always stuck into the defense bill for museums and other stuff that has no national or military value.
YET…YET… go back to the italicized portion. Another very large $3.8 billion (from “operations”) is not actually to be cut at all, but only to be saved for “emergency” spending, where it doesn’t count against even the soft budget “caps” Congress is working against. In other words, by refusing to spend money now that it KNOWS is needed for Iraq, Congress can add those billions to domestic, non-defense programs WHILE CLAIMING TO HAVE STAYED WITHIN THE BUDGET. Yet they know, for a fact, that they will approve the $3.8 billion later — “off budget,” by their lights, but still adding to the national debt no matter what budgetary sleight of hand Congress uses.
Thus does Congress harm our military capability (by cutting ships and plains), while refusing to cut purely local, non-military pork, PLUS add to the national debt by increasing domestic spending accounts (for instance, Rogers reports, for Housing and Urban Development) while, with a wink and a nod, writing an IOU for day-to-day operations that it will finance through a later emergency bill (which itself will surely be chock-full of other pork). Got all that?
These people show neither responsibility nor integrity.
Now, as for the social issues, there is the Senate’s final passage, 98-0, of the 25-year extension of “temporary” parts of the Voting Rights Act. I’ve written a number of times about how misguided it is to pass the extension without certain amendments; what is really annoying is that this extension adds provisions that actually make the overall act worse. How? By redefining and re-explaining its intent in such a way as to try an end-run around two recent Supreme Court decisions. Those court decisions put limits, in effect, on the ability of legislatures to “gerrymander” new districts with race as a primary consideration. Racial gerrymandering amounts, of course, to a form of electoral apartheid, as it promotes racial separatism rather than the commonality of citizenship, What’s even worse is that Republican congressmen are apparently too dense to see that not only are they wrong on principle in thse end-runs around S. Court decisions, but they also are quite arguably hurting their own political interests. Ramesh Ponnuru explained it brilliantly in this piece in National Review. Not only that, but they act AGAINST the true long-term interests, rightly understand, of the very black voters they claim to be protecting — which is why one of the high court decisions they are trying to neuter is one that SUPPORTED the position of the black, Democratic attorney general of Georgia, who presumably has the best interest of black voters in mind.
All of which brings up this question: When is the last time Congress actually did something right? It’s been so long that memory alone doesn’t serve to recall it….