December 3, 2007

Putting The M Back In OMB

That's the promise Rudy Giuliani makes in his Wall Street Journal column on fiscal conservatism today. Calling pork the "broken windows of the federal budget" and promising to restore accountability and common sense to federal spending, Rudy makes his case that his brand of fiscal conservatism provides the answer for Republican electoral woes, and America's financial health:

With economic uncertainty weighing on the minds of many Americans, Congress is preparing to recess after another year of profligate spending, protectionist talk and promises of higher taxes. No wonder some people feel like we're moving in the wrong direction. But I'm optimistic as I look to the future. It's not our country that's moving in the wrong direction -- it's Congress, and Washington's culture of wasteful spending.

Over the last decade, nondefense spending has increased by 65% -- the federal government currently spends $24,000 per household -- while the number of earmarked pork projects rocketed from close to 1,000 to a height of nearly 14,000. This year, with only one appropriations bill enacted, earmarks already number 2,161.

A return to fiscal conservative principles can put America back on the right track, while giving Washington a much-needed dose of discipline.

Fiscal conservatism is based on two fundamental principles -- cutting taxes and controlling spending. In recent years, the Republican Party has successfully cut taxes, but we have fallen short when it comes to controlling spending. The next president will need to strengthen both sides of the fiscal conservative equation, while reforming the culture of wasteful government spending with transparency and accountability. I believe I can do it because I've done it, and in a place that might even be more difficult than Washington.

Republicans might complain about Rudy's views on social policy, but in 2006, the GOP lost big on its spending record. This column talks plain sense about the necessity to stop spending and roll back the expansion of federal government. It also notes that Republicans need to reclaim this territory with concrete deeds if we want to be taken seriously as a party of smaller government and fiscal responsibility.

The Democrats have provided a golden opportunity for the Republicans. Instead of seeing the mandate for clean government and accountability, they have instead chosen to hike taxes while making it more difficult to stop pork-barrel spending. If the Republicans want to differentiate themselves in a general election, they need a candidate who makes the case for this kind of discipline, both in rhetoric and in deed -- and they need Congressional candidates who won't go native after a term or two inside the Beltway.

Giuliani makes an especially good case for fighting pork. Just as Rudy couldn't reduce crime in the Big Apple without enforcing the more minor laws, one cannot impose fiscal discipline on a body intent on serving itself huge servings of earmarks in order to buy influence and job security. Pork spending accounted for almost $30 billion last year, and it looks to increase this year. In that kind of environment, the petty corruption makes inefficiencies look harmless, even though they may cost more than the earmarks. Discipline has to be applied across the board, or it doesn't work at all.

Giuliani's column serves as a clarion call to Republicans in 2008. They need to atone for their profligate spending and return to their small-government principles. Whether Giuliani is the candidate to champion these efforts or not, he has this part of the campaign exactly correct.


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