Meta-Blog

SEARCH QandO

Email:
Jon Henke
Bruce "McQ" McQuain
Dale Franks
Bryan Pick
Billy Hollis
Lance Paddock
MichaelW

BLOGROLL QandO

 
 
Recent Posts
The Ayers Resurrection Tour
Special Friends Get Special Breaks
One Hour
The Hope and Change Express - stalled in the slow lane
Michael Steele New RNC Chairman
Things that make you go "hmmmm"...
Oh yeah, that "rule of law" thing ...
Putting Dollar Signs in Front Of The AGW Hoax
Moving toward a 60 vote majority?
Do As I Say ....
 
 
QandO Newsroom

Newsroom Home Page

US News

US National News
Politics
Business
Science
Technology
Health
Entertainment
Sports
Opinion/Editorial

International News

Top World New
Iraq News
Mideast Conflict

Blogging

Blogpulse Daily Highlights
Daypop Top 40 Links

Regional

Regional News

Publications

News Publications

 
Conference call with Sen Coburn: ending Porkapalooza
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I just got off a conference call with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and a number of other bloggers in which he outlined the plan he and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) are undertaking to reign in pork projects normally added as earmarks to various and sundry appropriations bills.

As an example of the negative impact of such earmarks, he related the gist of a phone conversation he had with Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld told him that 9 billion dollars of earmarks had been added to the Defense Appropriations Bill. In the big scheme of things that may not seem to be a lot of money, but consider the impact. Instead of using the 9 billion dollars to do things the DoD needs to do, they now have to reprioritize their spending and spend it on things they don't need to do but now have to do.

That's a critical point. Earmarks change priorities, and jump those expenditures to the front of the line. That means someone or something which may be much more critical in nature to our defense or security may go unfunded.

Earmarks, as they're now done, are legislative cockroaches. They avoid the light of day and embed themselves behind the walls of legislative procedure. They're often added at the last minute in conference and never see any debate.

I asked the Senator why, if the insertion of earmarks violates the rules of the Senate, the leadership allows it to happen. Because, he said, the leadership in both the House and the Senate aren't fully on board. He also pointed to the House race for Majority Leader as being a very important race to gauge the sincerity of the Republicans in the House to do a better job with spending, lobbying and the corruption problem now present. I couldn't agree more.

Senators Coburn and McCain plan to bring a little sunshine to his roach infested practice. First, they want to see all earmarks broken out of legislation (in both the Senate and House) so they can be quickly identified. Secondly, they want to see a requirement that all earmarks be posted on line and available for public scrutiny for 72 hours prior to going up for a vote.

Third, they plan to challenge each and every earmark on the Senate floor. A long and tedious job, but a necessary one. That's not to say there isn't such a thing as a "good" earmark, but such challenges will hopefully see less of the other kind even considered.

Lastly, they plan on challenging Senate rules violations which entail last minute insertion of earmarks in appropriation bills. They need the leadership behind this move as it is very important to break the prevailing culture in the Senate which now allows the flaunting of those rules.

As a libertarian, I find these laudible goals and a first step in the right direction toward more fiscal responsbility and less spending. In the long run, though, much, much more needs to be done, especially on the side of mandatory spending, to get leviathan unders some semblance of fiscal control.

I support what Senators Coburn and McCain are attempting here and will try to aid them in their effort. I'm sure Jon and Dale, who were also on the call, will be posting their comments as well.

Make no mistake, I consider this a very small battle in a very large war on fiscal irresponsibility. There are many other larger areas which must be addressed as well. But as with all good generals you have to attempt to pick battles you at least have a chance to win. The attempt here is to change a culture. That culure now pervades the Senate and House. This is a battle in which the side of fiscal responsbility at least stands a chance of winning. If it can win this battle, then it can engage the rest of the culture in war. Libertarians are natrual allies in the battle to change the culture of fiscal irresponsibility in government.

Also commenting on the teleconference:

John Hawkins of RightWing News
James Joyner of Outside the Beltway
 
TrackBacks
Return to Main Blog Page
 
 

Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
Great!
 
Written By: Unknown
URL: http://
I disagree McQ...

Complaining about pork, earmarks in particular, is like complaining about being cold when you have a fever and wrapping yourself in a blanket. You’re complaining about the symptoms and treating the symptoms not only doesn’t address the underlying sickness but can give a false sense of feeling better.

So what that Coburn wants to have roll call votes? So what that he and McCain want to bring ’sunshine’ to this process? You think that our politicians are going to flinch because of this? Heck no, it’s not as if they’re doing something they’re ashamed of... they want these projects, they brag about these projects when they go home. They’re only using the earmark process because it’s faster and easier than doing it other ways and putting some procedural speedbumps in their way isn’t going to make a single politican change their stripes.

And while you’re right that the earmarks are pretty much a drop in the bucket, I think you’re wrong that Coburn and McCain’s ideas are but a first step towards the bigger goal of taming the budget. By focusing all of your attention and firepower on relatively small items, you miss the opportunity to educate the public as to the bigger harm. Assume you are successful in rolling back somewhat the earmark process. Given how much air you all are breathing on this, the public would be justified in thinking the fight against waste was over... they’re unlikely to be very receptive when you pull your Ginzu steak knife "but wait, there’s more".

A key to pretty much everything - politics, life, business, raising kids - is to focus your attention on the really big issues and let the trivial stuff slide. And earmarks and pork is but a pimple on the backside of the federal budget. Go after the big stuff... first.
 
Written By: steve
URL: http://
Complaining about pork, earmarks in particular, is like complaining about being cold when you have a fever and wrapping yourself in a blanket. You’re complaining about the symptoms and treating the symptoms not only doesn’t address the underlying sickness but can give a false sense of feeling better.
Steve, what part of this didn’t you understand?


Make no mistake, I consider this a very small battle in a very large war on fiscal irresponsibility. There are many other larger areas which must be addressed as well. But as with all good generals you have to attempt to pick battles you at least have a chance to win. The attempt here is to change a culture. That culure now pervades the Senate and House. This is a battle in which the side of fiscal responsbility at least stands a chance of winning. If it can win this battle, then it can engage the rest of the culture in war. Libertarians are natrual allies in the battle to change the culture of fiscal irresponsibility in government.


First you have to change the culture. Then you can work toward changing the rest of the system.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
"Complaining about pork, earmarks in particular, is like complaining about being cold when you have a fever and wrapping yourself in a blanket."

You still turn up the heat though dont you? Then you go and get some cold medicine, chicken soup, and get plenty of sleep. No reason not to do all that you can to fight the cold.
 
Written By: Chris
URL: http://
"By focusing all of your attention and firepower on relatively small items, you miss the opportunity to educate the public as to the bigger harm."
What percentage of the electorate do you think is even aware of the number and cost of these earmarks? I’ll wager the percentage is less than 10%. Despite quite a bit of publicity, I doubt many are aware that Senator Grassley earmarked 50 million dollars for a rainforest project in Iowa. That’s one of 14,000.

Don’t you think educating the public on this will be helpful? It’s certainly not going to detract from pointing out that the government wastes a shitload of money and that politicians are quite cavalier about it. It is, at the very least, one more brick in the wall.



 
Written By: Unknown
URL: http://
Okay, okay, maybe my cold analogy could use some work. My point was, that in rallying the general public onto your cause, supposing you win, the public is likely to think the fight done and won and go home... while you’re screaming that ’the fight’s not over, the fight’s not over’.

Good generals not only pick battles they can win, but battles that make a difference. MacArthur didn’t bother invading every Japanese-held island because invading wouldn’t have made a big difference. So what if all $9 billion of the earmarks in the defense bill goes away? $9 billion is a rounding error in overall defense spending.

And, McQ, viewing going after earmarks as the first step in a long war is the wrong approach... for, as I tried to make the point earlier, earmarks are but a symptom. Don’t go after symptoms, go after the disease. Going after earmarks isn’t going to change the culture... for you’re not fighting over anything of substance, you’re just complaining about the form. To steal from the old joke, you’re not keeping the lady from being a whore, you’re just telling her she has to go about servicing her clients in a different way. And as with campaign finance ’reform’, if you take away one way of doing things Congress will merely find another.

What you have to do is eliminate the desire of Congress to overspend... and having roll call votes is not going to have the slightest effect on that.

Having said all that, I wish you all luck in trying to eliminate the earmarks and the spending they entail... for, since you have no chance of changing the culture, I guess I would rather have a bit less spending than no less spending. Or, to really beat my analogy to death, if I’m going to die, at least I’ll have a blanket to keep me warm.
 
Written By: steve
URL: http://
He is absolutely right about the House race. If the conservatives are going to "right the ship" they have to get Shadegg elected. If not the liberals will continue doing business as usual - until after they lose the election.
I think he is being way too nice to Dr. Frist. Dr Frist is the Republican answer to Dr. Dean. Both are incompetent, big government liberals. Dr. Frist likes the earmarks because he likes the way they grow the government. Fortunately he will not be around next year.
 
Written By: Rodney A Stanton
URL: http://
My point was, that in rallying the general public onto your cause, supposing you win, the public is likely to think the fight done and won and go home... while you’re screaming that ’the fight’s not over, the fight’s not over’.
Quite an assumption, Steve.
And, McQ, viewing going after earmarks as the first step in a long war is the wrong approach... for, as I tried to make the point earlier, earmarks are but a symptom. Don’t go after symptoms, go after the disease.
Yeah, and for the third time (the first being in the post) I’ll point out that the problem is the culture of fiscal irresponsibility. And like all diseases or battles, you first attack at its most vulnerable and weakest point. That would be earmarks specifically and pork in general.

But, hey, if this isn’t your cup of tea, if you have a better and more practical idea, tell us about it. But standing on the side-lines flinging feces doesn’t particularly impress me Steve.
Having said all that, I wish you all luck in trying to eliminate the earmarks and the spending they entail... for, since you have no chance of changing the culture,
An assertion you’ve yet to even begin to support.

Part of the conversation with Coburn had to do with making everything everyone in Congress does visible to us out here in blogland. And what he hopes blogs with some visiblity will do is disect these things, point them out to readers and have readers in the areas effected contacting the Congress people doing the spending. He said that when he can take a letter from Mr. X talking or complaining about Rep. or Sen. Y’s wasteful earmark to the floor of the Senate, it makes all the difference in the world.

And that, sir, is a direct attack on the culture.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
McQ:

We seem to both be making some assumptions: me that the public isn’t going to rally round a post-earmark fight and that getting rid of a few (thousand) earmarks isn’t going to do a whole lot and you thinking Coburn taking some letters onto the floor of the Senate is going to make all the difference in the world. Time will tell whose assumptions are more firmly grounded.

And, if I have my Sun Tzu right, you attack the weakest point of your enemies strength (I never read Sun Tzu, but I read Marketing Warfare which is supposed to be drawn from Sun Tzu). Attacking a relatively meaningless point allows the enemy to make meaningless tactical concessions. And the gains you make are easily isolated and don’t lead anywhere. So Coburn storms the floor and manages to eke out a few wins... doing so doesn’t segue into an attack on entitlement spending... it doesn’t lead into an attack on baseline budget increases... it goes (again, an assumption on my part) nowhere.

And one more point: do you really think rallying some blogs is going to do much to change Congress’ behavior? Look at how well the left side of the blogosphere was able to convince a majority of Senators to filibuster and defeat Alito’s nomination... and those blogs are a whole lot more organized and committed than the relatively few blogs advocating fiscal responsibility.

The sorry fact is that Members of Congress view bringing home the pork as a crucial component of their re-election campaign... and, as we saw with the Bridge to Nowhere, Congress digs in to protect their projects, notwithstanding the criticism and ridicule sent their way by bloggers and the like. And just like Congress (often) finds a way when redistricting to work together to ensure their mutual re-election, so too do they find a way to make sure each Congressman and Senator has plenty to show the home folks. And a big reason they do so is because they know that their voters want pork for themselves and are willing to put up with pork on a national scale in order to get some for themselves. For example, voters in the DC area (supposedly) want mass transit extended... and they’re willing to fund bridges in Alaska in order to get the feds to pick up the lion’s share of the transit construction and operational costs.

You want to change the culture? Start with trying to convince the voters that it is in their interest to forego pork in their own district. Convince the DC area that they ought to fund Metro expansion themselves. Convince some Eskimo tribe that they ought to pay for their own darn bridges. Convince California residents that they should pay for their own highway construction. Convince the people of Mississippi to do without the targeted spending at the local Navy shipyard.

Remove the demand for pork from the home front and you remove the incentive and need for Congress to ladle it out.
 
Written By: steve sturm
URL: http://thoughtsonline.blogspot.com/
And one more point: do you really think rallying some blogs is going to do much to change Congress’ behavior?
Alone? No. But then I never even hinted we were all that was going to be carrying the fight did I?
And, if I have my Sun Tzu right, you attack the weakest point of your enemies strength (I never read Sun Tzu, but I read Marketing Warfare which is supposed to be drawn from Sun Tzu). Attacking a relatively meaningless point allows the enemy to make meaningless tactical concessions. And the gains you make are easily isolated and don’t lead anywhere. So Coburn storms the floor and manages to eke out a few wins... doing so doesn’t segue into an attack on entitlement spending... it doesn’t lead into an attack on baseline budget increases... it goes (again, an assumption on my part) nowhere.
Huh? You attack the enemy where he’s weakest. Always.

Attack the weakest point of your enemy’s strength? That’s meaningless, but it does allow you to draw the equally meaningless conclusion you drew.
The sorry fact is that Members of Congress view bringing home the pork as a crucial component of their re-election campaign... and, as we saw with the Bridge to Nowhere, Congress digs in to protect their projects, notwithstanding the criticism and ridicule sent their way by bloggers and the like.
No kidding ... that’s sort of the point ... expose the process to sunlight, attach names and districts and make them justify the earmark. If they can’t then it is perfect blog fodder. Hoped for result? Fewer and fewer of the kind of earmarks now frequently proposed and inserted at the last moment that we only find out about after they’re approved and the money allocated. While its fine to get outraged at that time, it really doesn’t accomplish -or stop- anything.
You want to change the culture? Start with trying to convince the voters that it is in their interest to forego pork in their own district.
Hello? That’s precisely why he wants to enlist blogs. We live in the districts. We can follow the local discussion, even spur it. We can alert people who live where we live about what’s going on and how their tax dollars are being spent. Seems like a good approach to me.

Anyway, as I said, unless you have a practical alternative rather than the usual "I don’t like it because it doesn’t do enough" criticism, I say thanks for dropping by. Lord knows we get plenty of that type of rhetoric around here from those who find plenty to complain about but never any reason to try to do something ... anything ... about it.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
From ’The Art of War’, by Sunzi.

Translation: Giles, Lionel.
7. You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you
only attack places which are undefended.

[Wang Hsi explains "undefended places" as "weak points; that
is to say, where the general is lacking in capacity, or the
soldiers in spirit; where the walls are not strong enough, or the
precautions not strict enough; where relief comes too late, or
provisions are too scanty, or the defenders are variance amongst
themselves."]
10. You may advance and be absolutely irresistible, if you
make for the enemy’s weak points; you may retire and be safe from
pursuit if your movements are more rapid than those of the enemy.
29. Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its
natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards.
30. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to
strike at what is weak.
 
Written By: Firedrake
URL: http://
The point of the Sun Tzu thing: you concentrate strength against weakness, attacking where you are not expected, in places that are weakly defended, and then exploiting a successful attack rapidly and aggressively.

That’s all very nice, but the military analogies are really a distraction from the main point, which is that there is a lot of pork — waste and corruption — and we are borrowing hand over fist to pay for it, and building up massive debts that we will suffer to repay later on.

We need to aggressively campaign for fiscal conservatives — lawmakers who are willing to cut spending AND raise taxes so that we stop building up debts and start paying them down. We need to have flexibility to borrow in the future if necessary, rather than being backed against the wall whenever the economy really tanks (does anyone think that the global economy will never tank again? Anyone...?) or China stops buying debt hand over fist.

With this in mind, we need to help out our fiscal conservatives and our anti-pork crusaders on both sides of the aisle. We need them to be successful, and we need to let our lawmakers know that saddling each and every one of us with a mortgage that just keeps on growing is UNACCEPTABLE. We need to change the culture — and sometimes small, successful steps can open up the door for the bigger and more disruptive steps. The "big bang" approach doesn’t always work, and is incredibly difficult to implement against opposition unless you have already taken on and beaten said opposition under other circumstances.
 
Written By: Howard
URL: http://
"First you have to change the culture. Then you can work toward changing the rest of the system."

It’s not going to work, Bruce.

You need to remember that I’ve told you that (over and over).

Someday, this is going to be important to you. And it’s not about me telling you this: it’s about the facts of reality.

It’s not going to work. You’re wrong, and you will see.
 
Written By: Biilly Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Okay, well Billy Beck has given us his prophesy as evidence that this won’t work.

How disconcerting.
 
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
Rather than further wear out my welcome here, I’ve elaborated on my lack of enthusiasm for Coburn’s efforts (as well as for the entire Porkbusters campaign) here... for anyone who cares, that is.
 
Written By: steve
URL: http://
You’re always welcome here, Steve. But that doesn’t mean we’ll agree each time you show up. ;)
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/

 
Add Your Comment
  NOTICE: While we don't wish to censor your thoughts, we do blacklist certain terms of profanity or obscenity. This is not to muzzle you, but to ensure that the blog remains work-safe for our readers. If you wish to use profanity, simply insert asterisks (*) where the vowels usually go. Your meaning will still be clear, but our readers will be able to view the blog without worrying that content monitoring will get them in trouble when reading it.
Comments for this entry are closed.
Name:
Email:
URL:
HTML Tools:
Bold Italic Blockquote Hyperlink
Comment:
   
 
Vicious Capitalism

Divider

Buy Dale's Book!
Slackernomics by Dale Franks

Divider

Divider