Thursday, December 30, 2010 - 9:20am
EDITORIAL: Cutting pork is a necessary sacrifice
Published: Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 1:27 a.m.
Some Democrats will no doubt delight that spending cuts are hitting top Republicans right along with Democrats. And fiscal policies are costing red states money.
Our own Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, one of the kings of the earmark, had sizeable pieces of pork carved out for his home state and his hometown of Tuscaloosa. Shelby has a reputation of bringing home the bacon for Tuscaloosa. With the withdrawal of the Democrats' spending bill that included $8.3 billion in earmarks, Tuscaloosa may well have to look to its many famous barbecue restaurants for pork.
Shelby, of course, is never done until the fat lady sings. Whether a new spending bill will emerge from the Senate without the blemish of earmarks as promised will be determined once the legislative work is done. The senator didn't arrive inside the beltway by falling off a turnip truck.
But fiscal responsibility won't return to the federal government without some sacrifice. Fingers can point in many directions when talk turns to out-of-control federal spending. But until the taxpayers are willing to accept spending cuts and the loss that goes along with it, federal spending will remain out of control.
The federal system anticipates government administered at different levels. Federal, state and local government all have their roles. Part of the country's financial problems stem from the federal government assuming responsibility for projects more appropriately left to state or local governments.
Government spending should benefit the common good. At a local level, that means that every citizen in a town or country could potentially benefit from a project funded there. In truth, it may benefit some residents more than others, but it should always fit into a larger picture.
The same holds true at the federal level. While an interstate project may benefit a local community, it becomes part of an entire highway system. And it should be judged on its merits as a part of the interstate highway system.
For too long, projects that have little benefit outside the locales where they are built or funded have flourished on earmarks. Senators and Congressmen await the time when they have enough seniority and clout to cash in chits for pork. Once in the pork barrel driver's seat, they loathe to relinquish power.
But the cycle must be broken at some point, and the country's mood has never been more receptive than now. Curtailing earmarks won't solve all of the country's financial problems. But it is a logical step and one that has symbolic significance as well.
If the public isn't willing to allow Congress to cut pet projects from the budget, Congress must look elsewhere to strike a better balance between spending and revenue. The public could well be asked to consider a choice between pet projects and higher taxes. And the latter is never popular.