Thursday, March 12, 2009

Omnibus 2009 & Congress: Lost in the Reids

First let me commend Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold for his vote against the omnibus spending bill. Feingold has spoken out against the earmark process and it is nice to see him stick to his position when it really counts. I am certainly willing to be critical of Feingold when the situation merits, so I should also be willing to praise him in cases such as this.

I have no such sympathy, however, for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

I am not surprised he would vote for this bill, it is not that hard to understand, but his comments on the bill leave me bewildered. NPR's Morning Edition had a story on the bill that included this from Reid:
"Agencies of our government have been so underfunded and under-resourced during the Bush years that these agencies need this money so that they can function properly."
Does Reid actually think that Bush cut funding to government programs? Surely there are examples of specific programs that Bush cut, but federal spending rose during his years in office. Bush may have cut taxes, but he had no such compunction when it came to spending.

Bush went from spending 1.8 trillion in 2001 to 2.7 trillion in 2007. This is 18.6 and 19.5% of GDP respectively. (See this link for the data tables.)

To say our government was underfunded during this time is beyond belief.

Perhaps one could argue that the money that was spent under Bush was misallocated. Fine. The Democrats won the election, they get to set the priorities. Democrats should revise spending to be more in line with their wishes, but this bill increases spending as well. The case for spending increases was made, and became law, as part of the stimulus bill. The increases in this bill set a new high water mark from which spending may never recede.

So Reid is either woefully misinformed or simply making things up to justify the passage of this bill by the Senate. I am not sure which is worse.

My dismay was amplified when I came across an item on the OpenCongress Blog that notes the approval of Congress has jumped to 39%, the highest it has been since February of 2005. Are people more approving because they believe they will receive some direct benefit from the current spending spree? Are they more approving because we are clearly in dire circumstances and the Congress seems to be doing something, anything?

If they listen to Mr. Reid's words, I am not sure how one can be more approving of the job the Congress is doing, even if you believe in the measures that have been adopted thus far.

Within the poll, there is this additional piece of information:
Since January, approval of Congress among self-identified Democrats has risen from 17 percent to 57 percent.
Democrats have had much the same Congressional team since 2006, with the notable exception that one rising superstar has now relocated to Pennsylvania Avenue, so why the sudden jump? Some of it must be reflected glory from the highly popular president. But could some of this spike be the result of too many people being largely ignorant of the basic facts about our government and taking Reid, and others, at their word?

So in Senator Reid we have another example of the disconnect between rhetoric and reality that is a marked feature of our political landscape. And in the poll numbers we see a possible symptom of this disconnect.

Discerning the reality of our situation is critical for our national well being. Unfortunately, discernment is not something that can be legislated into existence.

1 comment:

Joe B said...

The problem is that "we the people" keep electing these a-holes every other year. The other problem is that the 2 party system has made extremely hard for a 3rd party to enter the elections. So we are stuck with the same 2 choices. :(