Dick, Dick, Dick. What are we gonna do with you?
I oppose the Senate Republican Conference voluntary moratorium on so-called "earmarks." At a moment in which over-spending by the Federal government perpetuates annual deficits of over $1 trillion a year, the Congress is being asked to debate a Congressional earmark spending resolution which will save no money even while giving the impression that the Congress is attempting to meet the public demand to reduce spending.
Instead of surrendering Constitutional authority to Washington bureaucrats and the Obama Administration, Congress should focus on reducing spending on both entitlement and discretionary spending programs. Providing the Obama Administration with greater authority to direct spending does not accomplish this goal, and eliminating earmarks does not reduce spending.
Lugar is also strongly on board for START despite GOP objections, and he is a major cheerleader for the DREAM Act's incremental amnesty plan for illegal aliens. This is not just a man who hasn't had to face the voters in four years -- he also must think conservatives will have defective memories in 2012.
It's true that earmarks are a tiny, tiny percentage of spending -- less than 1 percent. But if that's a reason not to overestimate the substantive effect of eliminating them, it's also a reason not to wildly overstate how much "authority" would be ceded to President Obama. Remember the stimulus? Nearly $1 trillion? Spending at the executive branch's discretion?
Lugar is right that earmark elimination would be largely symbolic and that there should be more effective spending-cut measures. But what's wtong with a little symbolism? Voters really, really need to get the message that Washington has been listening to them about the growth of government spending, and eliminating the earmarks would send that message. That doesn't mean legislators need to stop there. Some have called earmarks the "gateway drug" of federal spending -- they help create the mindset that too easily embraces spending other people's money. Eliminating them can be thought of as the first step -- and only the first step -- in a 12-step program for the addicted-to-spending fiends.