Friday, November 05, 2010

No More Earmarks.

There's a funny cartoon in this week's issue of The New Yorker. It's an "Herbal Tea Party" rally. "Calm Down" one sign says. "Relax," says another.

It comes to mind because the incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has an op-ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal, entitled "What The Next Speaker Must Do."

What do you suppose that might be?

Well, there are five parts to the Federal budget. They are: (1) interest on the debt, (2) Social Security, (3) health care, (4) national defense, and (5) all other (sometimes called discretionary spending). As the Federal budget deficit is wildly out of whack (while the country is mired in a terrifying recession), one might assume that the next Speaker would address the five parts of the budget head on, in general terms, while proposing some ideas about how to jump start economic growth.


Instead, the incoming Speaker proclaims that the new Speaker (himself) must end "earmarks" and make sure that all legislation is written in committee and made available to the public on the Internet. And he proclaims that there shall be no more "comprehensive" legislation, into which members can stuff various goodies for the yokels back home.

I'm going to make a wild stab here and estimate that "earmarks" account for something like .002 percent of the Federal budget. I might be a little high. But the notion that we elected 65-odd new Republicans to the House of Representatives and threw out 6 Democratic Senators so that we could impact .002 percent of the Federal budget and post a bunch of stuff on the Internet seems....I don't know.....pointless. Or whatever the right word might be.

The great fear among many Americans is that our political leaders in Washington do not understand the scope of the problems we face as a nation. That fear translates into an increasingly pessimistic view about the future. People think things are seriously off on the wrong track. People think that their children's futures will not be rich with possibilities and opportunity. There's a general sense that the country, while not yet Greece, is headed toward an iceberg. And that the band in Washington is just playing on.

Speaker-to-be Boehner's first major public statement does nothing to assuage this view. Hopefully, when he addresses the nation after he officially becomes the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Boehner will put forward a more compelling argument for why the country is in better hands and why the future will be brighter as a result.

If, on the other hand, it really is the view of the new GOP Congressional leadership that the major problem facing the country is "earmarks," then the Herbal Tea Party is out of business.