It wouldn’t be the holiday season without Congress rushing through another pork-filled omnibus spending bill. This year, not even a recession or $1.4 trillion budget deficit prompted even the slightest deviation from business-as-usual budgeting. Here are two key observations on this year’s spend-o-rama:
First, while most people have focused on health care and cap-and-trade, discretionary spending has leaped by 25 percent since the Democrats took the Congressional majority three years ago — plus $311 billion in additional “stimulus” discretionary spending. This comes to $561 billion more in discretionary spending over these three years than if they had limited growth to the baseline inflation rate. Worse, this new spending has pushed the 2011–2020 discretionary spending baseline $1.7 trillion higher than three years ago. We’ll be paying this bill for decades.
Even with a massive budget deficit, this Congress raised their own office allowances by 8.4 percent, and gave huge increases to LIHEAP (120 percent), the Corporation for National and Community Service (mostly Americorps, 30 percent), Transportation Security Administration (20 percent) and the NEA and NEH (8.1 percent each).
Second, remember President Obama’s pledge to “slash earmarks to no greater than 1994 levels” of 1,318? He followed up that promise by signing a pork-laden omnibus bill in February, and then promising once again to cut pork next time. House Democrats made similar pledges. Well, this bill contains 5,224 earmarks, bringing the year’s total to 8,939, and with a remaining defense bill that will likely push the total past 10,000 (this year’s whoppers includes $750,000 for the World Food Prize in Des Moines). In other words: promises made, promises brazenly broken. After blasting the GOP majority for exceeding 10,000 earmarks twice in twelve years, the Democratic majority will have exceeded 10,000 in each of its first three years. And President Obama — who recently said, “If my administration evaluates an earmark and determines that it has no legitimate public purpose, then we will seek to eliminate it” — hasn’t publicly criticized a single earmark.
Is this the “change” the American people voted for?
– Brian Riedl is Grover M. Hermann fellow in Federal Budgetary Affairs at the Heritage Foundation.