Fiscal conservatives have a right to be frustrated. Over just the last three years, the federal government has added $8 trillion to the national debt.
To put that in perspective, it took the country 216 years—from George Washington to the second term of George W. Bush—to rack up its first $8 trillion in debt.
With President Biden doing his utmost to make things even worse—by illegally writing off hundreds of billions of dollars in student loan obligations, among other things—any good news is a welcome relief.
Thankfully, House Republicans are taking a step toward restoring spending sanity. On Feb. 28, the House Appropriations Committee released rules and guidelines for so-called earmark items in upcoming spending bills.
The disastrous omnibus spending package that passed in December contained a whopping 7,234 earmarks. While some were routine projects such as improvements to sections of federal highways, many ventured to wasteful and absurd extremes.
For example, the Seattle-area Lake Washington Institute of Technology, in one of the least-sunny parts of the country, received $1.1 million for a solar array. Prince George’s County, Maryland, received $1.5 million for a “transit feasibility study.”
Even the American LGBTQ+ Museum in New York City got a $3 million handout, despite already having significant support from a network of left-leaning nonprofits.
The new rules would have prevented House members from obtaining funds for each of those earmarks. Boondoggles such as museums and recreational facilities are out, along with green projects from the Department of Energy and bureaucratic reports for construction projects.
While the House Appropriations Committee deserves a cheer for these sensible reforms, this is just the opening salvo in a major battle.
For starters, House Democrats are already voicing their displeasure at the prospect of losing access to funding for their prized pork-barrel projects. Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations panel, said that “they are helpful in terms of passing the bills,” because some members on the fence can be bribed with “free” money for something in their district.
More importantly, the Democrat-controlled Senate has not agreed to any of the House changes. That means senators from both parties remain free to seek woke and wasteful earmarks.
The Senate is by no means averse to plunging into the earmark pool of red ink. For example, the three earmarks highlighted above were all endorsed by senators, along with a “dirt bike culture” facility in Baltimore, critical race theory indoctrination for teachers in Rhode Island, and more.
As the House and Senate work up their versions of the bills needed to fund federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, significant differences will surely emerge. This likely will lead to negotiations between the two sides in the summer and fall.
It’s vital for legislators to keep in mind that high levels of deficit spending have been one of the primary factors behind the recent wave of inflation, which is hammering families across the country.
We can be sure, however, that if negotiations on the spending bills hit a rough patch, Democrats and their allies in the media will wail that Republicans pushing for spending restraint are cruel and extreme.
America faces a looming crisis. The gross federal debt is now over $31.4 trillion, or more than $240,000 for every household in the country. Major programs such as Social Security and Medicare are projected to go bankrupt within 10 years.
With that in mind, it seems only right that members of Congress should be willing to “sacrifice” pork-barrel politics as a first step toward preventing financial calamity.
Unfortunately, as of now it appears that House Republicans are the only ones willing to put the public good ahead of swampy political convenience.
This piece originally appeared in The Washington Times