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Let the Pork Wars begin
By Vin Suprynowicz
Leave it to U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va. ... Washington's reigning king of pork.
The senior senator was some upset when a number of his Democratic colleagues expressed support for President Bush's tax cut last week. Sen. Byrd responded by warning them -- first in private, then in public -- that if they voted to let their constituents keep a little more of what they earn, Sen. Byrd would see to it that their own pork spending was blocked, potentially leading to Republican gains in the 2002 off-year elections.
"At a closed-door meeting of Senate Democrats last Tuesday," reported Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, on May 14, "Sen. Robert Byrd (W.Va.) threatened to slash the spending projects of lawmakers who broke ranks to support President Bush's $1.35 trillion tax-cut plan.
"After delivering the threat on Tuesday, Byrd backed it up with a pointed floor speech just before the Senate passed the budget resolution.
" 'Let me say to my colleagues, if you vote for this budget conference report, don't come to the watering hole,' Byrd warned in the floor speech.
"But five Democratic Senators ignored the advice of the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, setting up an explosive showdown as the chamber gets down to brass tacks on the 13 spending bills," Roll Call continued.
Two Democrats in particular, Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Max Cleland, D-Ga., are seen as facing serious repercussions should Byrd follow through on his threat, with the result that they "fail to bring home the bacon" to their respective states. Both Senators are up for re-election in 2002 and the GOP is expected to target them by providing money and resources to their respective Republican opponents.
(The three other Democrats who could face Byrd's wrath are Sens. John Breaux, D-La., Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Zell Miller, D-Ga.)
Sen. Byrd at least does all parties the favor of stripping away any remaining veils of modesty from the true Democratic agenda, which seems to size up as follows:
Tax cuts are to be opposed because they could somewhat limit the ability of senior senators to waste hundreds of millions on "pork" projects never envisioned or authorized by those who penned the Constitution. Such pork projects, in turn, are vital not so much because the barefoot citizens of Gandeeville, W.Va., really need an eight-lane federal highway "demonstration project" to better link them to the vital parsnip and possum patches of Elmira and Gassaway.
No, the purpose of these allocations is forthrightly to guarantee the re-election of senators who need to brag on the campaign stump that they've "brought home the bacon" to their local jurisdiction ... regardless of how useless and inefficient the spending, regardless of the resultant general reduction in financial independence and well-being of taxpayers nationwide.
After all, the more we're overburdened and (in relative terms) impoverished, the less able American families will be to pay for their own food, clothing, and education -- heck, even to stay home and rear their own kids -- and the more "need" will thus be expressed for further handouts from Uncle Sam ... in turn generating demand for additional federal "programs."
Ah, what fearful symmetry. Government reduced to a set of intricate and expensive "solutions" to problems of its own making.
(What, my use of "impoverished" is inappropriate? Many of our American fathers and grandfathers supported their families in free-standing homes on a single salary, and paid cash for a new car every four years. Can you?)
For the record, President Bush's tiny tax cuts would not have the effect of reducing federal spending -- in fact, federal largesse will continue to grow at a record pace, even if American wage-earners are allowed to hang onto the tiny additional stipend now proposed.
The correct answer to Sen. Byrd is that we hope he indeed follows through on starting to trim his colleagues' "pork." Let's watch the percentage by which he determines their spending requests can be trimmed, while still meeting the quite limited, legitimate spending obligations of the Congress under Article I, Section 8.
Then, those same rates of reduction should be applied to him and all his colleagues ... after the GOP gains the five additional seats which Sen. Byrd now appears so willing to render vulnerable in 2002.
A $1.35 trillion tax-cut? They ain't seen nothin' yet.
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Subscribe to his monthly newsletter by sending $72 to Privacy Alert, 1475 Terminal Way, Suite E for Easy, Reno, NV 89502. His book, "Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement, 1993-1998," is available at 1-800-244-2224, or via web site www.thespiritof76.com/wacokillers.html.
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