Love of Pork is Killing Us
1.1 trillion dollars. That’s the amount Congress approved in appropriation funding to keep our government operating, including the pork required to pass it. If you wonder how we have reached a level of government requiring such an astronomical level of funding, retiring U.S. Senator Tom Coburn’s farewell address explained it best.
In his remarks, Sen. Coburn read the oath all members of Congress take when being sworn into office as he believes the failure to comprehend that oath is part of the problem. After reading it, and choking up while doing so, he proceeded to emphatically deliver the following scolding message:
“Your state isn’t mentioned one time in that oath. Your whole goal is to protect the United States of America, its Constitution, and its liberties. It’s not to provide benefits for your state. That’s where we differ. That’s where my conflict with my colleagues has come. It’s nice to be able to do things for your state, but that isn’t our charge. Our charge is to protect the future of our country by upholding the Constitution and ensuring the liberty that’s guaranteed there is protected and preserved.”
It’s a video that should be mandatory viewing for every member of Congress whether newly elected or returning for their umpteenth term. It’s worth noting that Sen. Coburn upheld his campaign promise when first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives to serve no more than three terms. He then made a similar pledge to serve no more than two terms when elected to the U.S. Senate but has resigned two years early due to his battle with prostate cancer. While some of his comments in a recent 60 Minutes interview may have riled up more than a few conservatives, he has not wavered in his stand against government excess.
A long fiscal conservative watchdog who fought government waste, often by blocking wasteful spending bills, his assessment of the out-of-control pork spending from both political parties does not bode well for the future of our nation. Why? Because the deals that are cut behind the scenes, away from the scrutiny of taxpaying citizens, reek of the crony corporatism and special interest influence that corrupts those we elect to represent us, threatens the financial security of our nation, and in turn reduces our ability to protect us from our enemies.
It’s how unpopular legislation such as Obamacare is passed; enticements such as the “Cornhusker Kickback” and the “Louisiana Purchase” secured those senators votes with financial enticements for their respective states without regard for the consequences.
Once that pork makes it way home, we the voters are sadly willing to trade our own state sovereignty and the long-term future of our Republic for our piece of the pie. With every dollar that we accept from the federal government, we lose our ability to operate more closely at the state and local level. We typically reward those pork-producing incumbents by returning them to office, even if their voting record conflicts with our stated fiscally conservative beliefs.
This insatiable dependence on federal dollars is not only driving us deeper into national debt – it is also further eroding the principle of federalism which was a relationship between government at the national, state and local levels and provides a sharing of power. One only has to look to the expansive Department of Education and its resultant failure to see the dangers of allowing the federal government to increase its power and control over the state and local governments.
Centralization of power leads to tyranny yet we continue down this path like lambs being led to slaughter. Close to home, the lure of federal dollars in Medicaid expansion may be a quick fix to state budget shortfalls, but the problems of a broken system will only be masked by a temporary influx of funding.
Similarly as Russia’s government has been totally dependent on high oil prices, our government and economy is entirely built on our ability to print money – what happens when the world economies decide that the dollar is no longer the currency of choice? The lessons of failed governments are all around us if only those we elect to represent us would heed those warnings instead of allowing them to fall on deaf ears.
Marcia Chambliss is the Alabama State Coordinator of Smart Girl Politics, a 501(c) (3) non-profit dedicated to the education and training of activists and candidates, and Smart Girl Politics Action, http://sgpaction.com/, a 501(c) (4) which focuses on conservative issues. She can be reached at: Marcia@sgpaction.com. Her views do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Smart Girl Politics Action