|Congressional Spend-fest Continues|
By Quin Hillyer
Thursday, June 14 2012
This country is still spending itself into oblivion, and not even the Republican House is putting up enough of a fight. But some individual House and Senate members still are battling, for the interests of both taxpayers and good social policy, and their efforts merit support.
Red State reported the other day that the House wouldn’t even hold the line on fairly simple attempts to save money in the annual Appropriations bill for energy and water projects, which are notoriously bloated areas of discretionary spending. By a vote of 282-136, even with 27 Democrats voting for savings, the House refused to block funding for the loan guarantee program that produces fiascos such as Solyndra. By 249 to 138, the House refused to end a direct subsidy program – not even tax breaks, but straight subsidies – for “green energy,” thus spending an unnecessary $428 million.
Other green energy boondoggles: Funded. Expensive Davis-Bacon labor requirements: Maintained. And a straightforward attempt to cut the entire bill across the board by a mere 0.027%, to keep spending within this year’s level: Blocked.
Granted, the Senate surely will push for still higher spending levels, so most of the fund-saving amendments in the long run probably would have been overridden. But why not at least improve the House’s fiscal-conservative bargaining position, rather than giving up the ghost from the very start?
Speaking of the Senate’s continuing spendathon, consider the upper chamber’s Appropriations bill for the State Department and Foreign Operations. Budget authority in the current year for those areas is $42.140 billion, and the House version of the 2013 bill would pare it to $40.132 billion. The latest Senate version of the bill, however, would actually boost it to $49.843 – an increase of 18.27 percent in just one year!
Back in April, more than three-fifths of the Senate voted to directly violate the budget agreement reached during debt-ceiling negotiations, by spending $34 billion more during the next 10 years on the Postal Service than the agreement allows. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, raised a point of order against the budget-busting bill, but the Democratic majority steamrolled right past him.
Sessions now complains that Senate budgeteers overall are adding $14 billion more in debt for 2013 alone than the budget deal allows. “This is how a country goes broke,” Sessions wrote in a letter to retiring Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad of North Dakota.
Senate Democrats kept up their profligacy this week. The Senate on Wednesday refused to pare back the food stamp program, even though food stamp spending has literally doubled since Barack Obama took office, crowding out other programs so much that it now represents 80 percent of all the spending in what’s usually referred to as the “farm bill.”
The indefatigable Sessions is hot on this case as well. He has served notice that he intends to offer four, more targeted, cost-cutting amendments on food stamps. Ordinary Senate procedures on such a bill ought to allow the amendments to be offered, but Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada is threatening a maneuver called “filling the tree” in order to ward off Sessions and others.
Sessions’ ideas appear to have merit, though, and there’s no good reason for the Senate to avoid at least voting on them. His first amendment would close outrageous loopholes that encourage states to give benefits even to those with incomes substantially higher than those for which food stamps are intended. Another amendment would take away perverse bonus payments given to states for increasing their food-stamp rolls. As welfare reform showed in 1996, the incentives to states should run in the opposite direction: towards paring the rolls, rather than adding to them. Designed correctly, as welfare reform was, such efforts can actually help cut poverty rather than add to it.
The 1996 reform involved a program formerly known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children. It is high time its lessons are applied to the welfare-like food stamp program.
“We now find ourselves in need of welfare reform for the 21st century,” Sessions said. “Left unattended, the safety net can become a restraint, permanently removing people from the workforce. And federal programs, unmonitored, can begin to replace the family, church, and community as a source of aid and support. We need to re-establish the moral principle that federal welfare should be seen as temporary assistance, not permanent support. The goal should be to help people become independent and self-sufficient…. Empowering the individual is more than sound policy. It remains the animating moral idea behind the American experience.”
He’s right. And speaking of morality, it is highly immoral to saddle generations yet unborn with a debt load they cannot bear. House spendthrifts should consider every excess dollar spent to be a moral abomination, and start acting accordingly.
Related Articles :