Sunday, October 02, 2005

This Week in Pork

The Washington Post keeps up its anti-pork editorialization series today with "Whose Fault is Pork?" It's not just Congress who's to blame, they remind us, but also the president, with that handy little veto power he's stuffed so deeply into a drawer underneath his deck of Iraqi leader cards.

Without absolving Congress of their pork-guilt, the Post rightly notes that "Unlike senators and House members, the president represents the whole nation; he is supposed to defend the general interest against particularist claims. Moreover, he has the power to do so. If Congress serves up wasteful bills, the president can veto them."Mr. Bush, they go on, "has been too cowardly to do that."

I learned something new from this editorial: Bush is the first president since John Quincy Adams to go an entire four year term without vetoing a bill. That's pretty impressive, and not, in this case, in a good way. The piece also puts the lie to the "oh it's because the Republicans control Congress that Bush can't veto" line, noting that JFK, LBJ and Carter vetoed bills passed by large Democratic majorities (21, 30, 31 respectively). Reagan vetoed a transportation bill because it contained 150 pork projects; Bush let one slide that contained 6,000 (and will cost almost $40 billion more than the amount he originally said he wouldn't go above).

Since I've been making most of these arguments for months now, I quite agree with the Post's conclusion:

"The truth is that there is nothing to stop Mr. Bush from wielding his veto - witness the fact that the administration threatened Friday to veto a defense bill if, among other potential offenses, it contained language outlawing cruel and inhuman treatment of foreign detainees. But while Mr. Bush cares fervently, and scandalously, about the imperative of keeping inhumane practices legal, he does not care as much about waste of taxpayers' money. This is why he has not made vigorous use of his veto to restrain the growth of pork. This is why an anti-spending backlash that focuses only on Mr. DeLay is missing its main target."

The best way to inflict spending discipline on a pork-happy Congress is with a flick of the veto pen. Bush should uncap that underused utensil when the next bloated pork-pie hits his desk.


At 1:30 PM, Anonymous Bob J Young said...

A president refuses to spank congress when he wants something from them or is afraid of them.
I suspect in this case it is both.

I don't think it will take much more for the republican congress to turn on bush. Just watching excerpts from the FEMA hearings confirms that for me. Congress has to go the polls next year and the nations mood is ugly.

At 3:03 PM, Blogger Phil S said...

Bob above frames it very well; and I think he is right: The Republicans are getting nervous with '06 coming up.
Side note: I have saved your wonderful line on where Bush has things:

"...stuffed...deeply into a drawer underneath his deck of Iraqi leader cards."

That is beautiful!!!


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