Monday, August 01, 2005

Why can't Republicans handle money?

Congress started their summer break today and looking over two of the spending bills the Republican-controlled Congress passed, I'm absolutely stunned. What is in Republican DNA that says they can't handle money?

It must be part of the Republican Party genetic make-up because nothing else explains Vice-President Cheney's quip to Paul O'Neil, "You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don't matter."

Remember those glorious deficits under Ronald Reagan? The Republican answer was that Democrats controlled Congress. Yet, when a Democrat was in the Oval Office and Republicans controlled Congress, the budget was balanced and the outstanding national debt was being paid off. Now under a completely Republican-controlled government. What does that get us?

On Friday, Congress sent to President Bush a six-year $286.5 billion highway bill which was overflowing with wasteful pork spending. Take the $25 million "Bridge to Nowhere," connecting two South Carolina towns with a combined population of 2,000. Or the $95 million appropriated to widen a highway in Sheboygan and Fond du Lac counties in Wisconsin -- "a widening that the state Department of Transportation says is unnecessary for 15 to 20 years and that legislators approved after bypassing the DOT and a commission charged with developing major road projects." And thanks to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), known as "Uncle Ted" for his willingness to spoil his constituents with pork projects, the bill also includes $200 million for a one-mile span linking Ketchikan, Alaska, with Gravina Island (currently, fifty people live on Gravina Island -- "they reach Ketchikan by taking a seven-minute ferry ride") and $1.5 million for a single bus stop in Anchorage, Alaska.

Next up was energy legislation that lavished the fossil-fuel industries with $515 million in new subsidies, including "$125 million to reimburse oil and gas producers for 115% of the costs of remediating, reclaiming, and closing orphaned wells." The House managed to add $35 billion of pork to the energy bill in just the last three weeks before it was passed - "a total of $88.9 billion in subsidies to industry over 10 years in the bill." Despite these handouts, Congress admits the bill will "do nothing in the short term to drive down high gasoline and other energy prices or significantly reduce America's growing reliance on foreign oil." A 2004 analysis by the administration's Energy Information Administration found that the Bush-backed energy bill will actually raise gas prices and increase oil demand nearly 14 percent by 2010.

On top of all that spending and tax giveaways, don't forget that Congress wants to make permanent the estate tax after the summer break. While it only effects less than .1% of all estates annually, permanent repeal would lose $64 billion of revenue in 2013 alone, according to Joint Committee on Taxation estimates. In contrast, retaining the estate tax with a $3.5 million exemption and a top rate of 45 percent — the policy in effect in 2009, just prior to repeal — would lose less than half of the revenue in 2013 that full repeal would lose. Over the subsequent decade, 2014 through 2023, permanent repeal would lose approximately $820 billion in revenues. More than $460 billion of this revenue loss could be averted by retaining the estate tax with a $3.5 million exemption and a top rate of 45 percent.

Democrats have been labeled "tax and spend", but that looks down right enlightened compared to the Republican Party's Visa card approach to running the government. Why aren't more small-government, fiscally conservative Republicans calling their party on this? Where is Dignan's outrage over these and similar bills? Why isn't my sensibly socially and fiscally conservative mother-in-law shaking her head and muttering about big government and corruption in Washington?