From yesterday's WSJ ($):
If Republicans lose control of Congress next month, one big reason will be their record of overspending, especially on earmarks. What explains this GOP fiscal performance?
One answer comes from a new analysis by the Cato Institute on the Capitol Hill culture of spending under Republican rule. Examining hearings of 14 Congressional committees, political scientist James Payne found that 1,014 witnesses argued in favor of greater spending while only seven advocated less, an imbalance of 145 to 1. This is worse that a Cuban election.
In the same hearings, federal programs were described as "effective" or "efficient" 50 times more often than they were described as "ineffective" or "inefficient." Federal agencies were praised as "helpful" or "beneficial" in 990 instances, but they were scorned as causing "harm" or "hurt" only a dozen times. These are many of the same federal agencies that the U.S. General Accountability Office has found often can't pass the most basic financial audit.
"The problem is that advocates of spending overwhelm all aspects of Congressional communication," says Mr. Payne. Congressional hearings that are supposed to be impartial assessments of whether taxpayers get their money's worth become instead cheerleading sessions for bigger government. "No one wants to do the honest oversight of taxpayer spending," adds Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, a rare Republican exception to that rule.
In sum, Congressional hearings have degenerated into a lobbying process in which advocates sing the praises of the spending that their livelihoods depend on, while stroking the egos of the politicians as constructive philanthropists. Members of Congress begin to believe their own stacked juries. It's amazing they stopped spending at $2.7 trillion this year.
The Republicans remind me a lot of the Democrats of the early 90’s: fat, complacent, bringing home the pork. Party affiliation seems less a factor than length of time in power. Any unprincipled politician from either party will become a pork king after enough time in power. That’s why it’s important to elect people with real principles – people like Tom Coburn and Jeff Flake. They are a tiny minority of the Republican Congress, but they have the key to Republican salvation.