Spending votes expose Senate’s belief that Americans are rubes 

OK, let’s stipulate for purposes of discussion that President Barack Obama really means it when he says the present course of federal spending “cannot be sustained” and that he wants to get rid of that $1.3 trillion annual federal deficit.

Even if Obama follows up his proposed three-year partial federal spending freeze — defense, homeland security and entitlements are exempted — with additional concrete steps to cut out waste and duplication in the bureaucracy, does anybody believe Congress will follow?

Oh, they will talk about it — endlessly. But don’t expect most of these clowns to actually vote to cut spending. They can talk about spending discipline, but it’s another Washington, D.C., wink-wink fraud.

Consider four Senate votes Tuesday on amendments offered by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

One passed unanimously. But things turned out quite differently for three others:

They voted 57-37 against Coburn’s amendment canceling up to $100 billion in taxes federal agencies have had lying around unspent for at least two years; they voted 61-33 against listing specific duplicative programs in every major federal department, the elimination of which would save $22 billion; and they voted 48-46 against reducing the Senate’s spending on itself by $245 million, which is mere chump change in Washington these days.

How do we explain these Senate votes? It’s easy, actually. They vote unanimously to slough off on the Government Accountability Office the most basic job given to Congress by the Founders: deciding how much the government will spend and on what.

Then, they go back home and boast to the rubes beyond the Beltway about how fearlessly they authorized “the investigative arm of Congress” to root out waste and inefficiency, and to recommend needed reforms.

Too many of our senators and representatives think the rest of us are a bunch of rubes who are too stupid to figure out that such votes are utterly meaningless exercises in futility.

What they don’t realize is that we rubes also have seen those three votes and the hundreds like them taken by Congress year in and year out. We also see those spending bills stuffed full of political payoffs — aka earmarks — for their friends, campaign donors, former staffers and even family members.

But this game may be about to end. Voters in 2006 tossed out a feckless Republican majority that had spent the previous decade in a spending splurge unmatched since President Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society.

Now with the Democrats in control for a couple of years, my esteemed colleague Michael Barone tells us that in the wake of Scott Brown’s Massachusetts Miracle, he has “not seen a party’s fortunes collapse so suddenly since Richard Nixon got caught up in the Watergate scandal.”

Both parties be warned: The 2010 elections are still months away, and things can change between now and then. But as long as Congress keeps doing its Jekyll and Hyde routine, odds are good that we rubes aren’t going to forget.

Mark Tapscott is editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner and proprietor of Tapscott’s Copy Desk blog on www.washingtonexaminer.com.

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