Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) ought to be commended for exposing the left’s commitment to reforming the way Washington does business as nothing more than empty rhetoric. Last night Coburn forced votes on two amendments to the $410 billion omnibus appropriations bill that forced liberal Senators to approve of $10 million in earmarks for the clients of a now-disbanded lobbying firm under federal investigation and another $16 million in earmarks for water-taxi services and manure management. But what if the left in the Senate had called his bluff? What if they had stripped the bill of $26 million in earmarks? Would our nation suddenly be on the path to fiscal responsibility? No. Congress would still be set to pass, and President Barack Obama still set to sign, a spending package that increased discretionary spending by 8% for a second consecutive year.

The problem with earmarks is not $16 million for water-taxis and manure management. All 9,287 earmarks in the omnibus bill come to a total of $12.8 billion, or 3% of the total package. The problem with earmarks is the other spending that 3% buys. As data from the Office of Management and Budget shows, the rise in the number of earmarks tracks closely with the rise in overall spending by the federal government. Sen. Jim DeMint explained the link to Politico last year: “I talked to colleagues who would say, ‘DeMint, I gotta vote for this bill because it has my project in it,’ even though the bill was way over budget.” The evil of earmarks goes far beyond their nominal price tag. The real damage they do to our country is the votes they buy for ever higher levels of spending.

And ever higher levels of spending are the main priority of the left in Washington today.  Senator Obama co-sponsored more than $90 million worth of earmarks in 2008 appropriations bills that raised discretionary spending by 8% over the previous year. Candidate Obama promised to “go line by line to make sure we’re not spending money unwisely” while proposing $1.4 trillion in new government spending. President Obama held a “fiscal responsibility” summit the week after signing the largest explosion of federal spending since WWII. A cynical person might see hypocrisy in the pattern above. We do not. We see a single-minded consistency: grow the size of the federal government at all costs.

Even some Democrats are becoming wary of the far left’s spending binge. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) wrote in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal:

The omnibus increases discretionary spending by 8% over last fiscal year’s levels, dwarfing the rate of inflation across a broad swath of issues including agriculture, financial services, foreign relations, energy and water programs, and legislative branch operations.

Last week I was pleased to attend the president’s White House Fiscal Responsibility Summit. It’s about time we had a leader committed to addressing the deficit, and Mr. Obama deserves great credit for doing so. But what ultimately matters are not meetings or words, but actions. Those who vote for the omnibus this week — after standing with the president and pledging to slice our deficit in half last week — jeopardize their credibility.

Voters rightly demanded change in November’s election, but this approach to spending represents business as usual in Washington, not the voters’ mandate.

We couldn’t agree more.

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