Monday, April 05, 2004

Rights and Reason: One Party's Pork is as Good as Another

The Republican Party is dead as a party of limited government and even Bob Novak sees it:

The highway bill marks the absolute termination of the Gingrich Revolution ushered in by the 1994 Republican sweep. In the face of President Bush's repeated veto threats, Republicans are determined to pass a bill filled with earmarked spending for individual members of Congress. The 1982 highway bill contained only 10 earmarks. The 1991 bill, the last highway bill passed under Democratic leadership, contained 538 such projects. But the addiction for pork has grown so large that the current bill contains at least 3,193 earmarks. . .

. . .Only 58 Republicans (and six Democrats) joined [Rep. Sue] Myrick in voting no Friday. She is not opposed to spending money for roads, within reason. It's the non-highway money that bothers her. "Why are we paying for all of this stuff?" Myrick asked me (using a more vivid word than "stuff"). "It's just the way you get along here."

That so serious a conservative as Sue Myrick feels she would like to quit shows how much the climate has changed on Capitol Hill since she and other bright-eyed new Republican House members were sent there by the 1994 election.

I wrote 10 years ago that Republicans, taking control for the first time in 40 years, faced a test. Metaphorically, would they close the executive washroom or just change the locks? It was almost immediately evident that they would take the latter course. Now, it's becoming clear the erstwhile Republican reformers are also super-sizing what they once condemned.
Despite his admission, it's no surprise that the philosophically disarmed Novak still misses the big picture. Contrary to the claims of Novak and other conservatives, the Gingrich Revolution was not a revolution. The 1994 Republican takeover of Congress was not an embrace of capitalism, but yet another rejection. Remember how just a few hours after the gavel was passed to the Republicans, Gingrich made a statement praising the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt? Remember how impotent the Republicans were as they battled Bill Clinton during the government shutdown? That’s not a revolution—that’s more of the same, but under a different party banner.

The question is, just what are the Republican defenders of capitalism (if there even are any) going to do about it?

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