I read state Rep. Bakari Sellars' column editorial criticizing Sen. Jim DeMint's opposition to earmarks. Bakari's a great guy. I consider him a friend. But his approach is just flat wrong when it comes to earmarks and spending.
As we've seen pretty clearly over the past several months, the Democrats' solution to every problem is to spend more money. Unfortunately, we don't have the money to spend. So, more spending means more taxes and more debt. This year, our national debt will surpass $12 trillion. Yeah, you read that right -trillion. And as Social Security and Medicare near bankruptcy, taxpayers are on the hook for more than $100 trillion in the coming decades just to keep the two programs running. Our children and grandchildren will be crushed with higher taxes to pay for this irresponsible budgeting and reckless spending.
It appears Democrats are blind to our current economic crisis. Washington is out of money after failed bailouts and "stimulus" spending sprees. In fact, every dollar spent by the federal government since mid-April has been borrowed from China and other countries. And the bill will be sent to our grandchildren.
Every day, S.C. families are forced to make tough choices about how to spend their hard-earned paychecks. Will they save for their children's college fund, invest for their retirement, or maybe - just maybe - have enough to keep their children fed?
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These families understand better than most members of Congress that federal spending is out of control. A primary example of that wasteful spending is Washington's addiction to the very earmarks that Rep. Sellars praises.
Unfortunately, a great number of federal earmarks are written by congressional staff, placed deep in appropriation bills and are never voted on or even debated. These hidden earmarks bring up serious ethical questions about the way our Congress does the people's business.
A mere two decades ago, it was considered outrageous that Congress sent the president a bill with 152 earmarks So outrageous, in fact, that President Reagan actually vetoed the legislation. But this is not just a partisan problem.
In 2006, a Republican Congress sent President Bush spending bills with nearly 10,000 earmarks. Citizens Against Government Waste pointed out that these bills included earmarks such as $500,000 for a teapot museum in North Carolina, $100,000 to a boxing club in Nevada, $1 million for water-free urinals and $13.5 million to an international fund to finance the World Toilet Summit. All told, the 9,963 special-interest projects totaled more than $29 billion of your tax dollars. Twenty-nine billion dollars.
We've had similar problems in Columbia. Just a few years ago, state legislators tried to push through an earmark of nearly $1 million to build a bean museum in Lake City. Yeah, you read that right, too. This and other wasteful spending to grow government is a large part of why we have state budget shortfalls today. That's why I've pushed for earmark reform and more responsible budgeting in the state Senate. Unlike Rep. Sellars, I'm glad Sen. DeMint is doing the same at the national level.
Senator DeMint has seen firsthand the impact of earmarks on the legislative process and on the legislators who participate in those earmarks. He has witnessed also the impact these earmarks have on our local communities.
In recent years, smaller communities have been forced to hire high-paid Washington lobbyists, convinced that the only way to "get their fair share" was to spend their constituents' hard-earned money to lobby their very own members of Congress.
Towns, communities and states consistently spend more on projects than they actually cost because relying on earmarks in that next authorization or appropriation bill means no predictable funding stream.
Sen. DeMint is right to fight this out-of-control spending. True reform is never easy, especially in a day and age that government bailouts and takeovers have become commonplace.
Sen. DeMint has consistently said tax dollars should be spent wisely, or not spent at all, and public money should not be spent based on how many years your member of Congress has spent inside the Beltway. Our founding fathers would be rolling in their graves if they knew Washington spends more time funding teapot museums and bridges to nowhere than its spends debating education, health care, border security and the War on Terror.
I am proud that Sen. DeMint refuses to participate in Washington's practice of wasteful spending. I am proud that he's working to lower our taxes and reduce the incredible debt we are piling up. And I'm grateful that he's fighting for a better country for our children and grandchildren. We need more like him.