Our primary question in those early years was: How do we reform government and return money and power back to the American people?
Eventually, the policy innovators and the "Spirit of ’94" were largely replaced by political bureaucrats driven by a narrow vision. Their question became: How do we hold onto political power? The aberrant behavior and scandals that ended up defining the Republican majority in 2006 were a direct consequence of this shift in choice criteria from policy to political power.Nowhere was this turn more evident than in the complete collapse of fiscal discipline in the budgeting process. For most Republican candidates, fiscal responsibility is our political bread and butter. No matter how voters view other, more divisive issues from abortion to stem-cell research, Republicans have traditionally enjoyed a clear advantage with a majority of Americans on basic pocketbook issues. "We will spend your money carefully and we will keep your taxes low." That was our commitment..This year, no incumbent Republican (even those who fought for restraint) could credibly make that claim. The national vision — less government and lower taxes — was replaced with what Jack Abramoff infamously called his "favor factory." One Republican leader actually defended a questionable appropriation of taxpayer dollars, saying it was a reasonable price to pay for holding a Republican seat. What was most remarkable was not even the admission itself, but that it was acknowledged so openly. Wasn’t that the attitude we were fighting against in 1994?
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found earlier this year that a 39 percent plurality of Americans believe that the single most important thing Congress can do is to curtail earmarks that only benefit certain constituents. Taxpayers understand that pork-barrel spending is out of control. These projects contribute to the deficit, create few winners but lots of losers, leave the decision of how to distribute large amounts of federal dollars in the hands of a few, and invite corruption. Federal dollars are too often used for political influence instead of the public good..It is time for Congress to get a handle on wasteful, frivolous spending and halting the earmark process is a good place to start. While we realize this policy probably could not be implemented until next year, at a minimum, Congress should require that all members identify all the earmarks they have secured this year.
CAGW Names Sen. John Thune
Porker of the MonthWashington, D.C. Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today named Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) Porker of the Month for helping to secure a record $2.3 billion federal loan for a railroad company..
The loan guarantee from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) would allow the Dakota, Minnesota, and Eastern Railroad (DM&E) to expand and improve a rail line that is used primarily to transport coal from Wyoming to Minnesota. In apparent anticipation of the loan, Sen. Thune was instrumental in increasing the FRA’s loan guarantee authority from $3.5 billion to $35 billion in the 2005 Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act. DM&E paid Thune $220,000 in 2003 and 2004 to lobby for the loan before his election to the Senate..
According to BearingPoint (a strategic consulting firm), the loan would require an annual payment of $246 million on top of the $15 million from another loan. Even if the rail upgrade increases DM&E’s current annual revenue of $200 million, the deal presents a poor credit risk to taxpayers, who will be forced to foot the bill if the company defaults. A senior manager at BearingPoint stated, “This loan finances a project with many financial uncertainties, ultimately calling into question whether or not DM&E can repay the loan.”.
The DM&E loan is being compared to the $1.5 billion Chrysler bailout in 1980. However, at least that expenditure was the subject of intense public and congressional debate; the DM&E loan is quietly moving through Congress thanks to behind-the-scenes lobbying and legislative maneuvers..
According to the FRA’s Railroad Safety Statistics Annual Report 2004, DM&E ranked last in safety among the nation’s 43 largest railroads. DM&E’s CEO pointed to safety as a reason to support the railroad’s “rehabilitation.” However, government handouts have failed to solve DM&E’s safety problems; its main track accident rate has escalated to eight times the national rate since its last FRA loan of $233 million in 2003..
Furthermore, the coal fields of Wyoming are already served by two railroads; a government loan could adversely impact the marketplace. The president of a competing railroad said, “If the government allows non-market-based loans of this magnitude for certain carriers, that will have a negative effect on railroads’ ability and willingness to invest private capital” (Los Angeles Times, 10/29/06)..
Like most special interests, DM&E argues that its handout is in the national interest. Sen. Thune says it will “transform South Dakota’s economy for generations.” Such pronouncements fall apart next to the simple logic that if the project’s benefits vastly exceeded its costs, a federal loan would not be necessary.
For championing a loan guarantee that puts taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars, circumvents public debate, skewers market incentives, and rewards his former employer, CAGW names Sen. John Thune its Porker of the Month for November 2006..
Citizens Against Government Waste is the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government. Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers.
At home, businesses, local governments and institutions that have grown accustomed to receiving big federal contracts or grants thanks to having two powerful majority party senators working for them may also have to adjust..In September, for example, Gregg and Sununu announced the $436 billion defense appropriations bill for fiscal 2007 contained $69.3 million for New Hampshire companies. BAE Systems of Nashua received $12.85 million to work on several weapons systems.
While in the Senate, Gregg has "returned" more than $400 million to New Hampshire colleges and universities, including the state university system, according to his spokesman, Erin Rath.
She said he has also "secured" over $10 million for Manchester crimefighting initiatives, such as Operation Streetsweeper, "COPs" grants, digital radios and bulletproof vests.
All worthy items, I suppose. Keeping in mind what CAGW said about "earmarks" being a major cause of wasteful and frivolous spending, consider this astonishing promise reported by DiStaso:
Gregg does not anticipate a problem in continuing to secure earmarks
for New Hampshire.
"If I see something I need to get dollars for, and if it’s legitimate and within the budget, I think I’m going to be fairly successful in getting those dollars," he said.