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Monday, June 18, 2007

Bush's 'Fiscal Restraint' - How Politicians Think


By Paul E. Scates

The headline was enough to make any American taxpayer stand up and cheer – “Bush Threatens Veto of Runaway Congressional Spending.”

But wait a minute...who is this “Bush” who’s making such a promise? If it’s our president, we need to recall that during the past ten years, while the Republican Party has controlled Congress, he didn’t veto even one appropriations bill. Even the most expensive public works legislation in history, the $286.4 BILLION highway appropriations bill of 2005, which contained over $24 BILLION in earmarks – i.e., pet projects selected by virtually every senator and representative to gain favor with voters by providing federal funds in the form of construction projects and jobs, and added just prior to the final votes so nobody has the opportunity to question or oppose these expenditures.

Not that they would, of course. The Senate voted 91 to 4 and the House voted 412 to 8 in favor, so it’s not like there are many crusaders in Congress trying to save your tax dollars. The fact that almost 10% of the most expensive bill in history was for purely self-serving boondoggles like the $223 “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska, to connect an island inhabited by 50 people with a town of 8,000...or the National Packard Museum in Ohio ($2.75 million)...or horse riding facilities in Virginia ($600,000)...a snowmobile trail in Vermont ($5.9 million)... a bicycle and pedestrian trail in Tennessee ($532,000)...parking for New York’s Harlem Hospital ($8 million), etc., wasn’t enough to trigger President Bush’s sensibilities about how our taxes are spent, nor to prompt an “anti-excessive spending” veto. He signed the 1,752-page legislation, although he never read it, nor did any of the Representatives and Senators who voted for it, even including its authors!

In 1985, President Reagan vetoed a highway bill because it contained 121 of these earmarks, but in 2005 President Bush didn’t hesitate to sign the highway bill with 6, 376 such earmarks. While Republicans controlled both houses of Congress these earmarks rose from 1,439 in 1995 to a total of 13,999 in 2005...none of which President Bush vetoed, or even threatened to veto.

Now, however, we’re to believe he’s so concerned about how our taxes are wasted by Congress year after year, regardless of which party is in charge, that he’s going to “get tough” on excessive spending? If all that pork didn’t prompt a veto, it’s fair to ask what has finally moved him to veto “excessive spending” by our elected representatives. Well, here’s how the process works: the administration asks for a certain amount of funding for various programs, and the Congress debates on the value of that legislation, and on the funding amounts they will authorize. Seems that the Democrats are authorizing more money this year than the president asked for. How much more?

For the Homeland Security Bill, for example, Congress authorized $37.4 billion, six percent more than the president requested. The Bush administration is trying to “restrict” discretionary spending to $933 billion, but Democrats are seeking to expand spending for domestic programs by adding to the requested administration levels in the dozen appropriations bills Congress votes on each year by a total of $23 billion. Two billion more on a highway bill, four billion more on a transportation bill, and so on.

But our “Conservative” president will have none of it! Suddenly a fiscal watchdog (and surely it has nothing to do with the fact that it’s now Democrats, rather than Republicans, who are in charge of the money tree in Congress), President Bush is going to prohibit “excessive spending” of our tax dollars.

Pardon me while I vomit.

In the first place, if “discretionary spending” (i.e., federal tax expenditures above and beyond those required to pay interest on national debt, borrowed money, etc., or to fund programs that are absolutely necessary for the functioning of society, such as printing money, funding the military, etc.) is almost a TRILLION dollars, then cutting a mere $23 BILLION isn’t exactly fiscal responsibility! But the way it’s presented by the administration, and echoed by the media,’d think Bush just galloped in on a white horse to save us.

The majority of Americans despise politics for precisely this sneaky, lying and deceitful way that government business is conducted. Let’s not forget that these politicians, many of who have been in power for decades, are spending OUR tax dollars. It’s safe to say that most would be at least a little more circumspect in their deliberations and voting if that money came out of their personal pockets, as it comes out of ours. But they have set the rules up so that they can always claim they were voting in our interests. How?

In the first place, they are allowed to add amendments concerning, for example, military expenditures to a bill about highway transportation, or amendments concerning health care to a bill about agriculture, etc. That enables them to vote as they please, then claim they “had to” vote for/against certain bills in order to support some “much needed” legislation or prevent some “wasteful” item. So where’s the accountability to the voters? That’s doesn’t exist. But the House and Senate can set up their own rules...and this is how they choose to do business.

Is this open and honest? Are they being responsible and transparent in their conduct of our business, in the expenditure of our tax money? I believe we can all see through this farce. Yet we allow it to continue, year after year, regardless of which party is in control.

Both parties, and the president, continue to play us for the suckers we are, all the while braying about how they’re being fiscally responsible, looking out for the taxpayer and the interests of the American citizen. It’s a great deal for politicians, who control what we know about their actions on our behalf and never have to worry about us rising up and throwing them out of office. And for a lame-duck president (who isn’t facing any more elections)? Why, he has everything to gain for his “legacy” (remember Clinton’s desperate search for one that wasn’t covered with slime?) and for the benefit of his party, and nothing to lose?

That, my fellow citizens, is exactly how this nation is becoming a quasi-socialist cesspool, ruled by wealthy, elite, career politicians, rather than by “we, the people” who were entrusted with self-government. So, continue to wallow in your ignorance, or your petty party affiliation that says the opposing party is evil and yours is noble and full of integrity. But what I’ve just described is how politics is actually carried our name...and at our expense. And this is just about the money side of it. Our liberties, our traditional moral values, the economic foundations that led to our great prosperity...every single thing that made this nation great is handled in exactly the same way, with no regard for what you and I think, or for how their political deceit affects our day-to-day lives. It’s all about what benefits them...their positions, their power. And you continue to re-elect them...


Formerly a liberal and an atheist, Paul E. Scates served as a Marine in Vietnam and is a lifelong student of American history, politics and culture. A former contributor to national website, he writes his staunchly independent Conservative and informed Christian commentary for his fellow ordinary, working Americans, the “we, the people” who are ultimately responsible for preserving our Constitutional liberties. He welcomes your , pro or con.

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