Why earmark restraint is vital

By Tom Quiner

I began traveling regularly to New York City in 1989. I was struck by something amazing. As I drove from the LaGuardia Airport to Long Island, I saw abandoned cars everywhere.

I saw cars that were burnt-out carcasses. Some sat on cinder blocks, stripped bare. They had clearly been there a long time.

The city didn’t do anything about it. They let them sit there and pollute the landscape.

It became kind of a game to me. Each trip, I would count how many cars littered the roadside. My New York client wasn’t particularly amused by my ongoing tally of New York decay. I think he felt kind of ashamed knowing the rest of the country wasn’t like this. In a trip in 1993, I remember my count hit thirty-nine abandoned cars along New York expressways.

New York City had been governed by liberal Democrats most of the century. The last Republican was Mayor La Guardia who left office in 1945. (John Lindsay was a liberal Republican who switched parties in the 70s, so I don’t count him as a Republican.)

In a trip to New York in 1995, I noticed the cars were gone. Something had changed. A new mayor, Rudy Giuliani, was in charge. Giuliani inherited a city in decay. Interestingly, he began fixing New York by attacking little things like petty crime. He characterized the decay as a street tax:

“It’s the street tax paid to drunks and panhandlers. It’s the squeegee men shaking down the motorist waiting at a light. It’s the trash storms, the swirling mass of garbage left by peddlers and panhandlers, and open-air drug bazaars on unclean streets.”

And his clean-up of the city included towing junked cars away as a first step toward beautifying a magnificent city.

Little things add up. They create a culture that cares about big things, which leads me to the current debate in Washington over taxes.

Voters threw the bums out in November. Why? The big issue was spending.

How has the Democrat-dominated lame-duck Congress responded? By trying to cram a $1.2 billion omnibus bill down the throats of the taxpayers. It’s a cynical attempt to box Republicans into a corner and accept unconscionable levels of spending. All of this is happening at the last minute because of Democrat’s refusal to pass a budget earlier in the year, as documented by Quiner’s Diner last August.

The Democrat’s bill is 1924 pages long. Who has time to read and vet it before the term ends?

The bill is loaded up with a ton of pork. Democrats shamelessly added in pork spending to entice some Republicans to support the bill, pork proposals Republicans had made last year prior to swearing off earmarks.

With mock benevolence, Democrats lavished a billion dollars of pork on nine Republicans with quivering resolve.

Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, deserves credit for making a principled case against this monstrosity, ensuring no Republican support. The bill is dead.

Republicans must stick to their guns and avoid earmarks. It’s just a drop in the bucket as a percentage of all federal spending. But in a way, earmarks are a “street tax” paid to power drunk politicians to buy local votes.

Mayor Giuliani showed us how critical it is to take on the little crimes that lead to a culture of big crimes.

In much the same way, Republican resolve to eliminate earmarks is critical to creating a culture of spending restraint.