Wasn’t it less than three months ago that Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., was waging a one-man war against government spending at the risk of wounding millions of unemployed Americans by ending their jobless benefits?
Can the Bunning who shut down the Senate for five days to make a point about runaway debt, who endorsed anti-earmark crusader Rand Paul to succeed him, be the same deficit hawk who’s swooping in to pluck off $734 million in tasty earmarks?
Say it ain’t so, Jim.
Not to worry. There’s nothing inconsistent about Bunning requesting 134 projects totaling $734 million, a spokesman for the lame-duck senator explained to a reporter for the Gannett Washington bureau.
Why? Because if the appropriation bills containing Bunning’s earmarks aren’t paid for when they come to the floor, Bunning will vote against them.
No word yet on whether he’ll attend the ribbon-cutting ceremonies and take credit for the projects.
Bunning, of course, is not alone in denouncing “out-of-control spending” on the one hand while using the other hand to grab as much spending as he can for his constituents and supporters.
Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are also masters at this.
Some of these earmarks are questionable favors to political supporters and cronies. But many go to good causes and useful improvements.
Therein lies the rub for deficit hawks and tea-partiers.
Much of what government spending buys is good stuff that people like and need.
What’s wrong with $2.5 million to improve Campbell County’s sewage system or $485,000 to encourage kids to go into science?
While attracting tons of attention, earmarks are really minor contributors to our nation’s ravenous borrowing.
The big ticket items — the ones we either have to cut or raise taxes to support — are Social Security, Medicare and national defense.
When Congress finally gets around to that debate, we can only hope that political courage and calm intelligence carry the day.
Thankfully, Bunning and his hypocritical posturing will be long gone.
— The Lexington Herald-Leader