PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Coburn Says Congress Should Just Say No To Earmarks
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, must have been a Pogo fan because he is in The Wall Street Journal today telling his colleagues in Congress that he's seen the enemy and the enemy is us:
"I am convinced that forcing hundreds or, if necessary, thousands of votes to strike individual earmarks is the only way to produce meaningful results for American taxpayers. Bringing the Senate to a standstill for as long as it takes would be a small price to pay for shutting down what Jack Abramoff described as Congress's 'earmark favor factory.'"
That sentence about forcing thousands of votes must send chills down the backs of the Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle, as well as hundreds of well-connected lobbyists, veteran political operatives and savvy lawyers.
Bringing the Senate's business to a halt in order to have a serious and consequential debate about earmarks would be historic, irresistible for the mainstream media and Blogosphere alike and anathema for those who live by and for Big Government.
That is why Coburn also observes:
"The battle against pork is crucial. Pork is the root cause of the unholy relationship between some Members of Congress, lobbyists and donors. Inside Congress, the pork process is effectively a black market economy:
"Thousands of instances exist where appropriations are leveraged for fundraising dollars or political capital. It is delusional to claim Congress can redeem its relationship with K Street without eliminating earmarks. The problem is not lobbyists. The problem is us."
That paragraph alone is reason enough that Coburn's piece is quite likely today's most widely read newspaper story among denizens of the Washington Establishment.
UPDATE: The Great American Pork Barrel
Coburn's piece should be read in conjunction with Ken Silverstein's "The Great American Pork Barrel" in the current issue of Harpers. This may well be the most comprehensive analysis yet written on the issue. Here's an excerpt:
"Of who added these grants, no public record exists. Except in rare cases, Members of Congress will refuse to discuss their involvement in establishing earmarks, and the appropriations committees have a blanket rule against commenting.
"Often it is difficult to discern even who is receiving the funds: earmarks are itemized in bills but generally without disclosure of the direct recipient - just a dollar amount, destination, and broad purpose.
"Indeed, in the matter of the $16 billion burglary, and the similar acts of mass theft plotted for this year, the only certainty seems to be this: that lawmakers and lobbyists collude to conceal, to the utmost extent possible, their actions from the American taxpayer, who serves as the ultimate benefactor to their chronic bouts of generosity."
The "$16 billion burglary" refers to the massive earmarking contained in the 2006 Foreign Operations appropriations bill.